Friday, May 31, 2013

Thoughts on the Class of 2013

Fortunately for everyone that attends our annual graduation ceremony, I have established the goal of completing the ceremony in an hour or less.  This year we just came in under that self-imposed deadline, and in future years with more graduates, we will have to be a little more efficient if we are to get it done.  When I say fortunate what I mean is because of this goal, I really work had to keep my remarks very brief, which for those of you that have taken the opportunity to talk to me, know that it is very difficult for me to be brief any time I am talking!  So as not to take a whole lot of time standing up there and risking that some in the audience will nod off, I set a limit to the length of my remarks based upon how much I can type on the script in 16-point font.  What is frustrating when I take on this task really came to a head this year as there was a lot more that I wanted to say about the Class of 2013 than I was able to in the time allotted.  So, I will do some of that now.

For those of you at our commencement ceremony, you will remember that my general theme was “talent.”  This group of graduates is perhaps one of the most talented classes of students that I have had the opportunity to work with in my years as an administrator.  I can think of a class of students when I was a teacher somewhere around twenty-five years ago that had tremendous talent as well, and as the years have gone by, many of them have done tremendous things.  This group reminds me a bit of them, and thus I have tremendous hope for them.  I generally end my remarks at graduation with a challenge to leave a positive mark on the world, and I honestly believe that each student can do that.  Basically, I believe we can all have a positive impact on others, and while one of these kids may not come up with the next Facebook or Twitter, there is no question that they can make life better for other people. 
When I speak publicly, I learned a long time ago that when you list names, you run a huge risk of leaving people out.  My last year as a teacher at Galva-Holstein I was asked to give the commencement address and I decided that I was going to mention every graduate in the speech.  I went over that speech twenty times and had a list of the graduates right next to me, checking names off.  And dang it if I didn’t miss one!  Actually, his name was in the speech, I just skipped over it when I was reading it.  I did feel bad about that, so I hesitate to try and include lists of people when I put something out to the public for fear of leaving someone out.  It is for that reason that I was somewhat vague in my references with the speech and am so here as well.  However, these kids really do exist!
As we work with a class of students at high school, they generally take on some characteristics as they come through.  Some come in with “reputations,” which generally change as they work their way through high school, due mostly to maturity and the inevitable changes that adolescents go through.  The Class of 2013 was somewhat non-descript when they arrived at NFHS.  I remember a couple of loud, funny young men that stumbled their way through that awkward first year, but for the most part, as a class there was a not a lot that they did that drew attention to them.  But, as they grew up, people really started to take notice!
I spoke of writers, musicians, and performers when I spoke at graduation, and in my mind, that is where this group starts.  I recall sitting with a couple of them listening to them read some of what they had written and was truly moved by their words and ideas.  Writing is tough!  Yet with some of our students in this class, they make it look easy.  Another part of writing is that you want to get it right when the public is going to read it.  When you write about other people, you have a responsibility to the subject(s) to tell their story, which is something that members of this class have done as well as can be seen in publications with our student’s work.
On stage these kids have excelled!  Whether it is singing, playing, acting, or just “yucking-it-up,” we have had the opportunity to be truly entertained.  It pains me that in this day of cable television and the Internet that we can’t seem to get anyone other than parents and grandparents to come to a program at school, so what these kids have done is really somewhat of a secret.  I guarantee that for your entertainment dollar, folks who have come to watch the performances at the high school the past four years have gotten a lot more of a return than what others who have stayed home in front of a screen have received.  Hey, I am a TV fanatic, and yet there has not been one time that I walked out of the PAC disappointed by what I saw and heard.  Plus, I can watch my favorite shows on Hulu the next day. 
I’ve wandered off my intended path, which is another reason to limit my time, so back to the point!  What is a little frustrating to me is that it does not appear that at this point when I have inquired that many of these kids are going to pursue these areas where they have demonstrated so much talent.  Yes, a couple of them look like they are headed in the direction of writing and communications, and I don’t have a problem with others playing it safe or having a fall back plan.  I certainly get it.  I also know that things change, and there is that saying that comes up time and again that people need to find out what they are passionate about and do it.  That way you never have to “work” a day in your life because you love what you are doing.  Because many of us have loved what these kids have done the past four years, I hope that at least for a few of them the passion will continue to burn and they keep doing it!