Posted in School

LOVE. LAUGH. LEARN. xoxox Hunni

The Graduation Toast to the Class of 2015


Greetings and gratitude to all here tonight, but most especially you – the students, the graduating class of 2015. I humbly thank you for this honour.

Sitting in the ceremony this morning was a moment of great pride and inspiration for all of us. You have been a collective, a unified community like no other Grade 12 group that I’ve witnessed, and you worked so hard to help each other succeed. You can look around at each other here and be grateful to be together.

I began this school year very nervous because for the first time, in many years, I really didn’t know many of the 12s – other than my drama babies who I hoped would protect me – and now I was sentenced to 5 of my 6 courses with YOU. You who were kind of intimidating, and you kind of had a bit of a butt-head reputation. Being the collective you are – that was really scary!

Of course, it took no time at all in the first semester with 30-2 and Creative Writing for you to show your true pirating natures – you plundered our time together, luring me with your giddy pessimism and your melodramatic loving – all the while stealing my heart with your curmudgeonly charm (right Sean Clifford?). You knew this to be true of your paradoxical natures (Shaan – paradoxical – you know what that means, right? – he asked me on his way into the diploma exam). So this paradox was known by you for you said it yourself in your writing – if I had any hope of survival against his imprisonment with you, it was lost when you began to bear your souls in your writing. I would spend countless evenings and early mornings with swollen tearful eyes from the beauty your words invoked. Your life philosophies, 6 word stories, river writing, spoken word poetry, the This I Believe, and the Never Shall I Forgets.

Soon enough, your wisdom, your creativity, and your heart flood all around me – embroiling me in your undertow.

Alas that first semester came to a close and we survived our time together – both feeling richer and grateful for our entrapment on those tumultuous seas. You were certainly pirates and you made me feel like your pirate queen!

Alas, the trumpet call for battle resounded again as you 2nd semester troops mustered your tenacity and shenanigans on my barely recovered heart. The rallying cry of 30-1 descended upon us and together – arm in arm – we faced the enemy – the dreaded diploma exam. Face it we did, through laughter, tears, dreams, nightmares, exhaustion and delight. Never shall I forget this. Never shall I forget you.

In 18 years of teaching I have loved more than 2000 students who have crossed the stages of graduation – but never have I met a group who truly felt so united in your blood, sweat, and tears – (especially in afterschool diploma preps in 30degree heat).  In such a short time together, you have burrowed your spirits into mine, and have forever affected me as not only a teacher, but especially as a person, and in the future -hopefully – as your friend.

I need to acknowledge the inspirational speeches from today’s ceremony and to pre-empt the rest my own speech by letting you know that I wrote mine before today – but Michael Beals’ valedictorian address has many parallels to my own – Michael, we have kindred souls. Many of you whose yearbooks I signed will note that I wrote: LOVE, LAUGH, LEARN. This is the motto of my life – it is the measuring tool I use to determine my own success and it is the magical torch that I pass onto you. But my words only shadow next to your own. As Michael also noted today – I’m infamous for the drudging pain of the blogs that I drill upon you, but thanks to the blogs I have your own wisdom to offer back to you. So as your fairy godmother – and with Michael as your other fairy godmother – the three wishes we bless upon you are love, laughter, and learning.

The primary value I hold is LOVE! I believe that that love is the central axis of all success. Find the best in each person you encounter, love the best in each person, and you will find success with them and for them. I believe that this is the passionate value that makes all of us at FFCA so special – as parents, staff, and students. Regarding love:

  • Jasmine K. wrote: “This taught me a lot about selflessness and how sometimes the right decision isn’t always the one that keeps you safe but rather the one that makes everyone around you safe.”
  • Rachel boasted: “ Loving loudly is being honest with yourself, the connections you have with your own feelings, and the openness to share them with others.”
  • Cameron realized, “There are many things that can be taken away from the One Act experience, but most of all … gratitude. This simple feeling is one of the most powerful, mood changing emotions I have witnessed by this point in my life.
  • Christy cried, “I am sad to leave this wonderful place where I have grown into someone that I am happy to be.”
  • RYAN exclaimed, “I would like to dedicate this to the amazing teachers of FFCA! … I feel the need to recognize the work they do for us students. All they want is the best from us and their dedication to us is not a job, but a passion which inspires that characteristic in us too.”

The secondary value I hold dear is the purity of LAUGHTER. We, as teachers, would never survive this work without the grace of laughter, and you certainly provide us plenty of opportunities to laugh. But due to our love – we usually laugh with you, and yes – on occasion – at you.   Laughter offers us joy and happiness, but more importantly, laughter eases the struggles in life. Together – as a staff and with students – we have laughed through our tears.

  • Jashanjot reminds us that “Everyone always forgets to include happy on the list of what they want to be. There’s a nonsensical idea that happiness stems from conforming to a status quo, but look at the happiest, most joyful individuals around you. The ones you see bursting with giggles and charm. They know how to take a joke and make one, they decided to not grow up the same way.”
  • Madison affirms, “I believe that being happy is much more than contentment. Being happy is making sacrifices, being happy is working hard, being happy is fixing your problems and coming to solutions on your own terms, evolving as a person and continuing to grow. Happiness is not a state of mind, it is a state of existence.”
  • Jamie asserts “- Life is a beautiful thing and rather than worrying about the dumb things and forgetting about all the great things, you may as well just enjoy it for what it is and be a happier person.”
  • Georgia – our beloved violist today – beautifully articulates, “Laughter doesn’t set limitations. Laughter creates opportunities. Laughter defeats evil. Laughter conquers.”

The final value that I hold sacred to success is LEARNING. Learning involves both risk and hard work, daily. Learning is to live with the humility in knowing that you need to spend each day –from birth to death – learning something new to make yourself a little bit better than you were the day before; to be willing to change, for the better. To have the humility to face your ignorance and prejudices, to embrace the learning that can help light your way.

  • Manpreet wept – “I feel that in order to truly learn from a mistake and to show the world that a change has been made, one must be given a second chance to do so.”
  • Shaan professed, “We are the root of all our problems and yet we blame others for our misfortunes. … conflicts can be resolved if we simply are willing to make change within ourselves…”
  • Ivdeep preached, “Chase your dreams now; try until you literally can’t anymore because nothings hurts more than those sleepless nights wondering what if or why….”
  • Daman G consoled, “Despite what we are made to believe, failing isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes we fail when working towards our dreams, but as my dad always says, “things always happen for a reason.” There must be a different path you were meant to take, and different things you were meant to accomplish.”
  • TOPE advocated,If you want to see yourself somewhere, it is not enough to dream; action is what makes a dream a reality and that requires work, perseverance and patience.”
  • ELAINE inspirited, “What I do believe in is living life with a childlike curiosity and desire. I believe in finding inspiration wherever I go … I believe in my ability to be more.”

As you all can see from these words – the words of our graduates that are pared down from 120 potential choices that I garnered while rereading ALL your blogs – we have so much wisdom leaving our walls and just as your words represent a legacy of you on my blogs, your impact will reverberate through our halls and hearts forever.

My experience with you has been special because by the time you got to me you were already whipped into shaped by all the other teachers; you were ready to show who you really are and began to forge who you really want to be. I was blessed with the best of you – most of the time.

I am grateful for the number of you who credit the teachers of FFCA with gratitude for your success, but the real success is that when you step through that door tonight you are officially free – did you hear that Karan – FREE!  But when you do leave us tonight, be that best version of yourself – the one who we know and who we love.

I cannot let you go without one more poem from the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and it is titled “SUCCESS

To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent persons
And the affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics
And to endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give of one’s self;
To leave the world a little better,
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch
Or a redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm

And sung with exultation;
To know that even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived –
This is to have succeeded

To conclude: As I reminded you before your exams – and this one is especially for Lauren who seemed to be really affected by this advice: “don’t worry about tomorrow – you got this!”

Much love and gratitude – thank you!

Posted in School

Graduating Class of 2012 – My Toast to the Students

It is such an honour to be asked by a graduating group to be the teacher, among such incredible teachers, who gets to give the speech at the Grad dinner.  I thank you for thinking of me.

So, my dear graduating class of 2012 – you and I have travelled quite the road together that has been fraught with peril and wonder.  Incredibly, most of you, I have taught at one point or another in our 6 years together at FFCA.

  • If you were in my homeroom in Grade 8 at Andrew Davison – please stand.
  • If you were in Mr. Butterfield’s class that year – my other ELA class – please stand.
  • If , in Grade 8, you were in my drama electives, technical theatre electives, or after-school dama – please stand.
  • If you were in my Grade 9 English class at DNB, please stand too.
  • Grade 10 drama (oh lord help me) – please stand.
  • Grade 11 English and AP English – please stand.
  • Grade 11 Drama – please stand.
  • Grade 12 English this year – please stand.
  • Any drama or musical extra-curricular throughout these past 5 years – please stand.
  • Those of you who are not standing – can rest assured that you are not the ones responsible for any of the many grey hairs that I was dying this morning at 7am!  So thank you for being wonderful students who I could love but not have been  tortured by!
  • To all my little grey hair makers standing –I love you – but goodness,  you owe my lots and lots of therapy and spa sessions!!!!!
  • You may now, Sit down!

So, when I agreed to do this speech I knew I had to do it because I love you, but I had no idea what to talk about.  So, I decided I’d talk about the personality of this group.  As you can imagine from the ceremonies earlier – this group can be a wee bit of challenge and a wee bit of a gong show.   So, how is it that you are so embedded in my heart, when you have driven me so crazy all these years.  Then I realized that it is your charm, your love, and your mischievous child-like sense of wonder and awe.

Then I realized you – as a collective – are PETER PAN and the Lost Boys: the children who never want to grow up.

And I round out many of the other characters in our lil’ epic journey of Neverland!  At times, I’m Nana the dog, barking away as you fly off into the stars.  Often I’m Wendy – the mother-figure – here taking care of you.  Other times, I am the Great Captain Hook – trying to take you down.  Sometimes, I am that big ol crocodile, Tick Tock, chasing you around the waters, reminding you of your doom with looming deadlines.  But mostly, I think that I am the hopeless Tinkerbell – dreaming in Neverland too often too – always buzzing around giving you all my pixie dust, drinking poisoned cups to save you, and stomping my feet, crossing my arms, frowning and nagging at you – but all the while, loving you!!

Often, most teachers here would agree, we have all had moments with you, like this one:  To illustrate – Mr. Widmer, may I borrow you please?  And, although I could pick 85% of you for this role, the infamous Jared Burtch – may I please borrow you, too?

(Give them their scripts and costumes/props for a Peter Pan/Hook battle)

Narrator: For long the two enemies looked at one another, Hook shuddering slightly, and Peter with the strange smile upon his face.
HOOK: “So, Pan, this is all your doing.”
PETER PAN: (sternly) “Ay, James Hook, it is all my doing.”
HOOK: “Proud and insolent youth, prepare to meet thy doom.”
Narrator: For long the two enemies looked at one another, Hook shuddering slightly, and Peter with the strange smile upon his face.
PETER PAN: “Dark and sinister man, have at thee.”

(And they battle in a sword fight – Peter Pan wins)

Sadly, this is often how we feel the battle can go with you – like Mr. Widmer here, we lose!.  But I have CHAMPioned great ACHIEVEment by resorting to this strategy to regain our authority.  (duct tape Jared’s mouth and around and around his body – put him on the floor –  and sit on him).

ME: So class, now that this lil’ annoyance is under control, let’s continue with the lesson.

Anyhow, now that you get a picture of what class is like with this group – back to the speech.

So the more I thought about this little analogy, the more appropriate I realized it is to describe you as a group.  Also, in preparation for this speech, I reread the blogs some of you have written over the last two years and found it wrought with Peter Pans:

When I call your name, please stand while I read the quotation you wrote:

1st we have a few Peter Pan wannabees::

  • Anish dreams: I am a dreamer. I like to imagine myself doing things heroic, just, brave, important, and near impossible. It usually causes a lack of focus in my real life, while I am entangled in one that only exists in my mind. 
  • Balraj confesses: I have had an amazing time in FFCA; primarily due to one reason of never being serious.  I am able to look back and not have any regrets for the most part. Not every teacher necessarily appreciates how I was in their class always but all those times that I got into trouble or kicked out of class was all worth it.
  • Nathan escapes: When we break free of our fears, nothing will stop us from being all that we can be. … So fly into your sky and be all that you can be.

2nd we have those who realize that Neverland is ending:

  •  Mariana’s realization: I perceive life to be a wondrous journey with unknown quests and conquers- a baffling and free adventure … For we all know that we fight our battles, and come face-to-face with moments of true defeat and sorrow.
  • Avneet’s awareness : Although everyone is excited to graduate and get out of here, we all know that we will miss this place because no one is going to treat us like children anymore, we for once, have to act like adults and make mature decisions for ourselves. 
  • Joanna’s Oprah moment: Everyone has their own Peter Pan Syndrome. A condition with symptoms such as the refusal to accept the realities of life and displaying immaturity and innocence of a child despite the age of the patient.

3rdly, it was my job to give you advice in this speech to help you move away from Neverland and into reality, but I think the wisdom of your own peers does a better job than I could ever do:

  • Marie reflects: What will have made your life feel full and the memories that you will remember will be the relationships you have built with people, the celebrations you’ve had with loved ones, and the tears and laughter that came with it all.
  • Ashleigh inspires: With the powerful combination of the willingness to learn and the willingness become more optimistic, one can truly be deemed unstoppable
  • Afsha rationalizes:  ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’, therefore, we can deduce that our small purpose in life can leave somewhat of a legacy or mark.

Well through your dreams, silliness, escapism, battles, awareness, tears, laughter, optimism, and life quest – I have been marked, indeed.  Marked with plenty of grey hairs and lots of love through the many lessons we have taught each other.

So, in conclusion, many months ago, I asked a mish-mosh group of Grade 12 “lovely, lazy lumps” (as Ms. Coldwell calls you) to write an essay based on the title “THIS I BELIEVE”.  Well, my darlings, through that blog and the many others that followed, I realized that Neverland and Reality might be able to co-exist in your world.  Perhaps that is why we’ve always connected – you and I – we are the dreamers.  So my parting words to you are stolen from JM Barrie’s Peter Pan:

1)    “Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough.  You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything for it.” 

  • In other words, dream babies, dream – but be prepared to work harder than you ever have before in pursuit of your dreams.

2)     “I taught you to fight and fly.  What more can there be?”

  • So, we’ve done all we can do as teachers – we have given you all the pixie dust we can muster! Use it and fly!

3)    “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”

  • And, I can never forget you, because you entered my world as lil pain-in the-but Pans and you’ve made me a better teacher through it all!

4)    Finally, “You know that place between sleeping and awake, that place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you, think of you; that’s where I’ll be waiting.”

  • Please return and know that I’ll be waiting to hear from you!!

So, on behalf of my heart and all the teachers here, I ask that you raise your glass to toast our darling Peter Pans on their graduation day!