Thursday, July 10, 2014

Commencement speech 2014

In my final post to this blog as the Principal of J.N. Burnett Secondary, I would like to share the comments made at the school Commencement ceremony on June 26th.  It was an enjoyable evening, celebrating the amazing achievements of this Graduating class.  I am sure all parents were tremendously proud, and so was I.  As stated previously, I will miss many things about Burnett Secondary, but what I will miss most are the students.  They are kind and compassionate leaders who are incredibly talented in a wide variety of areas.  Their diverse skills were showcased extremely well at our Commencement.  A special thank you goes out to all of the students who gave me a special send off and gift at the conclusion of the night.  You are amazing people!  Good luck!

Good evening distinguished members of the platform party, graduates, family and friends. To J.N. Burnett Secondary’s graduating class of 2014 we say “Congratulations.”  It is an honour to be addressing this outstanding group of young adults.

To begin, I must acknowledge that it has been another difficult year for education in British Columbia. Yet again, staff and students have had to endure tumultuous times of uncertainty and hindrance.  Despite these challenging circumstances, we are gathered to commemorate and celebrate your high school years at Burnett. And, it is with heavy hearts that your teachers are absent from tonight’s ceremony.  As an integral part, your teachers have devoted time and energy into your education; they have enjoyed connecting with you, and they are proud of your accomplishments. As a staff, we have been incredibly invested in your learning.

So, what is it about our work as educators that makes us so invested?  I believe it is the stories that make us swell with pride and feel as though we are helping to make the world a better place. Rarely do today’s headlines trumpet the good deeds of citizens; but at Burnett, the hallways and classrooms feature many examples of what is good and worthwhile. There are noble initiatives being led by members of this grad class which deserve to be chronicled: the amazing efforts of our Green Team to make an environmental difference; the leadership and governance of our Student Council; the conviction to raise awareness and to protect animal rights of JNB ARC and the passion and sportsmanship shown by our athletes.  Worthy reports continue when we recall our Leadership, Dance and Band Classes hosting the Seniors’ Brunch; when we are moved with gratitude by our annual Remembrance day ceremony; when we recall the student energy of Burnett’s first Open House; and when we look back at the fantastic Spring Production of Romeo and Juliet.

These examples are but a few. Each of your stories enlivens the school and makes Burnett such an incredible place to work. Despite all the turmoil that exists in today’s political climate, I cannot imagine another career I would rather hold than that of a teacher. It is our association with each of you that make this profession so rewarding. As educators, we value the lessons learned not only in the classroom but we treasure the knowledge gained from the connections to those around us.

Allow me to speak of a person I remember most from my education.  A friend and colleague, Mr. Lorne Bodin, once taught at this school and I had the pleasure of working alongside him as I began my career as a Vice-Principal at Palmer. I learned much from him and he continues to influence my practice today. Lorne demonstrated:

Compassion and Patience. Listen to each other and empathize with those who need support. Look to help those who need your time, your ear and your voice.

Loyalty and Leadership.  Speak well of others, even when you disagree. As you pursue your dreams, be an encouraging example - make those you know feel enriched for having known you.

Humour and Optimism. Be able to laugh at yourself and look for the good in all situations - even tough circumstances. 

Gratitude and Appreciation. Be thankful for all that you have. Show appreciation to your parents for their support, your teachers for their time and your friends for their care.

Lorne embodied these characteristics and he touched the lives of those with whom he came in contact. We lost Lorne to cancer 3 and a half years ago, and while we miss him greatly, his spirit lives on and his legacy is strong. In fact, I was introduced to cycling by Lorne. And, two weekends ago, I completed my third, Vancouver to Seattle, Ride to Conquer Cancer where, through the efforts of many, over 9 million dollars was raised to help fight this disease. We are extremely fortunate to be able to present the first Bodin Memorial scholarship to one of our graduates tonight. It is being awarded to an individual who makes a positive difference in the school, connects well with others, demonstrates kindness, and is generous with time. 

The qualities I have decribed are immeasurable. And, they are the most admirable traits I hope your parents and, we, the school community, have impressed upon you.  Yes, you have learned some valuable facts and useful formulas and many of you have done very well on your quizzes, tests and assignments, producing some extremely impressive results. But many years from now, what you will recall most are the relationships you nurtured - with your family, your teachers, your classmates - with those who have profoundly touched your life and positively transformed the way in which you think and the way in which you behave. 

This Graduating class is already in possession of these invaluable attributes. You are respectful, cooperative and compassionate.  You are mindful, intelligent and kind. Your efforts and deeds are influential. Continue to nurture what is noble and good because you are also the reason teaching, despite all the frustrations and difficulties occurring right now, is still the best job in the world.

Like all of you, I am also completing my last year at Burnett and beginning a new chapter. Like you, I will miss not only the great activities, but also the people who define this school. We bring together our individual strengths and we contribute to the community in meaningful ways. You have helped me to learn and grow and I will fondly remember all of you and this wonderful place.

Grads of 2014, we know that you have been equipping yourselves to face the many challenges and the endless possibilities available to you.  We want to thank you for your contributions to the school and the community. To quote the late Dr. Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people may forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

I am confident as I look around this room that you have made those around you feel proud, cared for, and valued.  Tonight is an important milestone in your lives. Please, feel proud.

In my final act as Principal of this great school, I want to do something to commemorate the evening...  It is time for a selfie... 

I encourage you to do the same.  Tonight, go take a selfie with someone you love...are blessed to know....has impacted your life......!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Goodbye, Breakers...

Hmmmm....  This is tougher than I thought and I am not entirely sure what to say...
For the past 9 years (6 as a Vice-Principal and the last 3 as Principal), I have had the distinct pleasure of working at J.N. Burnett Secondary School in Richmond, BC.  I consider myself very fortunate to have worked at this school.  The time spent here has been the most professionally rewarding of my career because I have learned and grown so much and developed important relationships with many students, staff and parents.  Each of you have helped, challenged and supported me, and I am forever grateful and hope that I was able to do the same for you.  I am sad to be leaving behind the many great people (staff and students alike) and close friends I have made at the school and in the community.  I will treasure the memories and relationships formed here for years to come and I can't thank you enough.
I would also like to say farewell and thank you to some staff who are also leaving Burnett.  Mr. Whittingham, Mrs. Kusec, Ms. Johal and Mr. Ghaug are all long-time Burnett staff members who will be moving on to other assignments in the fall, and I would like to wish them good luck and thank them for all they have done to help the students of our school.  You have had an indelible impact on many lives and you will be dearly missed.

I am, however, eagerly anticipating my move across the island to Matthew McNair Secondary School.  Change is never easy, but to quote Jim Rohn, "Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by CHANGE".  This is a new opportunity in a different community with much to learn and experience.  These growth opportunities do not happen without some pain and longing for familiar faces and routines, but I welcome the challenges to continue learning, and encourage you to face the changes in your life the same way.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge incoming Principal, Mr. Bert Wiens, who comes to Burnett after four years as Principal of Cambie Secondary.  I would like to wish Mr. Wiens every success as a Breaker!
Have a great summer!  You have earned a restful, relaxing and fun-filled time with your friends and family.  Please know that I will miss each of you.
It has been an honour working with you.  Best wishes for a safe summer and hopefully, a smooth start-up in September.
Jason Leslie