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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!