The past two and a half months have been hectic and as a result I have not been able to give much attention to this blog. As a new Principal, I have been working, for the first time, through complicated and sensitive issues surrounding staffing (downsizing and layoffs, plus posting and hiring), timetable issues, Commencement planning and speeches plus all of the regular end-of-year stressors (which this year have been further complicated by the continued labour unrest between the BCTF and the Provincial Government). To say the learning curve has been steep would be a massive understatement. At times I have felt overwhelmed and have questioned my abilities and decisions. I suppose, however, that the second-guessing and constant analyzing and thinking is a positive part of the reflective process that goes with learning new things and challenging oneself.
Despite the long hours and restless nights, I have continued to enjoy what I do and the people with whom I work and learn. One such event that reaffirmed my love of this job was held this past Wednesday evening. Our Parent Advisory Council (PAC) held its annual PAC Legacy Scholarship Presentations for any Grade 12 students who wished to share with parents their Graduation Transitions documents. The evening was attended by eleven parents (volunteers from PAC and anyone else who was interested), and 20 students. The library was set up so that parents could rotate around tables and have brief question and answer sessions with students who were presenting reflections upon their years in school. The six most interesting and engaging presentations (as decided upon by the parent group) were chosen as recipients of a $500 PAC Legacy Scholarship. Though I was not evaluating the presentations, I did have the opportunity to observe and have informal conversations with many of the students and parents.
I was thoroughly impressed. There were students who were preparing to go to school next year in faraway places like the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell and University of Hong Kong. There were aspiring Doctors and Scientists plus several Artists, Fashion Designers and future Youth Counsellors. Among the most inspiring were the stories of students who have overcome feelings of isolation when they arrived in Canada understanding very little English. There was also a student who demonstrated and talked about his love of the VEX Robotics extra-curricular program that he was a founder and leader of. There were students who talked about the changes they had gone through on their journey towards adulthood, including one who had fallen in with a group of friends early in his school life that led to some poor decision-making. His family intervened and set him up with Richmond's Integrated Youth Services Society, a charity founded by Esther Ho which looks to support new immigrant children by introducing them to causes like the Personal Growth Youth Pilgrammage to Yunnan, China. The student has now been overseas and is actively involved in fundraising to help bring a high-school education to students in rural China. Talk about a life-changing experience! Others talked about how much they had grown from their experiences in Leadership classes and when they were given opportunities to be role models for younger students in events like our Grade 8 Retreat.
In each of the conversations I had with students, I asked them after their presentation was over what was one memory of school that they would recall 15-20 years from now. In each case, the answer was "the people". I also asked what they were most proud of from their time in school. In most cases the response was "I surprised myself by how much I overcame and improved". I was pleased to hear that the students will remember the relationships formed in these years and was reminded of the article written by Charles Wheelan that is getting a great amount of attention in the Twitter world now. The article is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on Graduation speeches. Titled "Ten Things Your Commencement Speaker Won't Tell You", item number seven rings true for me and I thought of it frequently when speaking with our Graduates. It refers to how the "Adults in your life don't want what is BEST for you, they want what is GOOD for you". Too often, our children and students are protected from failure and risk by the adults in their lives. We do this with the best of intentions, but if we push them a little, and allow them to fail and learn from their mistakes, they will surprise themselves and us with what they can accomplish. The presentations from Wednesday night confirmed that if we allow them, our students can and will go above and beyond, even if their first attempt may not have ended with a positive result.
What a fantastic evening it was! Thank you to the parents who invited me to attend, and especially to the students who once again inspired and reinvigorated me with their stories, aspirations and reflections upon their time with us. As an entire group, you will be fondly remembered. Best of luck in your future endeavours. These last few weeks will be a blur for you. Study hard but slow down and enjoy the moment. The memories and relationships you will take from here will last a lifetime.