It is a real honour to speak at many spring graduation celebrations and, while I realize usually nobody is really there to listen to the superintendent, it is a chance for me to share some of my thinking on education, life and the real world.
So, in addition to congratulating our graduates, acknowledging our passionate and giving teachers and thanking our parents for supporting public education in every way in our community, I also tackled the issue of the ‘real world’ this year. Here is an excerpt from the comments I shared at our graduation ceremonies:
Starting with my own high school graduation in 1991, this is the twenty-fourth consecutive year I have got to attend at least one graduation ceremony. And, as much as our world has changed over the last 24 years, from MC Hammer and Sony Walkmans to Pharrell Williams and selfies, graduation is still quite similar – still relevant, still an important mark in life. It is part congratulations, part acknowledging a transition, and a time to pause and take stock – to be thankful for what has come before and look forward to what is ahead.
I think people who say our job in schools is to prepare you for the real world are wrong. If we have done it right this year and over the last 13 years, your school experiences have been very much the real world.
There is a notion that school is all about preparation. It really starts early – kindergarten is to prepare you for Grade 1 and it just continues from there. We start giving you tests in primary grades because you will get tested in older grades and you need to be ready. Some see school as continuing to prepare you for what’s next and, ultimately, the job of school is to prepare you for life after school.
Actually, when you are in kindergarten you need to be in kindergarten – it is its own thing and not just a preparation for something else. And Grade 12 is also its own thing. And so, as Grade 12s, I know particularly, in recent months, you have kept one eye on what is next – acceptance letters for university, travel opportunities and job offers that have come forward – sure our job is to prepare you for the real world, but hopefully school has been the real world.
The real world is about community. The real world is about working with colleagues, making mistakes, learning, trying again – hopefully, that has been your year and your school career. The real world is the collaboration that leads to the amazing arts performances at your school, the tremendous results in athletic competitions and the determination that leads to outstanding marks in the classroom.
The real world is about learning from wise mentors – and, we are so blessed with amazing, passionate, giving and talented teachers.
So, tonight is less about stepping out into the world, but more about celebrating your place in our world – a wonderful school career and the optimism of what is to come.
It is great to work in the West Vancouver system — an education system that is not only committed to preparing students for the real world, but is the real world.