Happy weekend! I hope you are having a wonderful Memorial Day weekend and are looking forward to a fantastic summer. This has been a week filled with emotions as I close out the year, look back on my time at Dawson, and look forward to new adventures over the summer and in the years ahead. The Middle School Moving Up Day ceremony and the Lower School Closing Ceremony were both filled with meaning for me as I say goodbye to students and faculty at Dawson. I was glad to get to put some of that into words during my speech for the eighth graders, and I thought I would share that with you today. I wish you all a wonderful summer!
I’d like to thank all of you for being here today: parents, faculty, and, students. Most importantly, I want to honor the students sitting in front of me: the Class of 2022.
This ceremony is particularly meaningful to me, and I’m going to just say up front that if I can make it through this morning without tearing up, it will be a minor miracle. My family loves to make fun of me because I cry at the drop of a hat when watching movies or tv – I’ve even been known to cry at cheesy commercials. So it is my mission today to not give them that satisfaction.
In any case, the reason this is an especially poignant moment is twofold. First of all, your class, the Class of 2022, holds a special place in my heart. Some of you, I’ve known just for a year or two. Others of you came in fifth or sixth grade, and so I’ve been with you for your whole middle school experience. And many of you I have known since I first came to work at Dawson when you were in second grade. And one of you I’ve known for fourteen years and thirteen days, to be exact.
I remember the spring day in 2011 when I brought my kids to Dawson for a shadow day. I was nervous about them starting a new school, and they weren’t particularly thrilled with the idea either. But when I picked them up at the end of the day, I saw that they had huge smiles on their faces and were clamoring to tell me everything about their day. Lily kept talking about a nice girl named “Chennedy,” (that would be Trinity), and she couldn’t wait until second grade began. I knew then that this was a special place, and I was so excited not just to come work here but to have my kids here, too.
All this is to say that I really do feel a special bond with all of you. I have loved watching you grow and change over the years. Even those of you who came to Dawson as late as this year – when you look back at pictures from the start of the year, you all look so much younger! And when I think about who you have become, I’m blown away. Some of you have become expert programmers, creating 3D models of cars and planes or movie projectors. And some of you have become skilled debaters and writers, whether arguing the finer points of historic Supreme Court cases or crafting the perfect sestina. Some of you have become fierce athletes, committed to improving your game. And some of you have become accomplished artists, whether performing on the stage, designing a table, or drawing a portrait.
During your time in Middle School, every single one of you has learned more about who you are and what you want to be. And every single one of you has come up against obstacles, failed miserably, and then gotten back up to try again. I know this because I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen you frustrated, angry, upset, crying, and wanting to give up. But then, some small part of you remembers what you’ve learned about the growth mindset and the importance of failure, and you pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and get back to work. If there’s one thing you retain and develop from your time in Middle School, I hope it is this resilience that I’ve seen in each of you.
Mark Twain once said, “Good judgment is the result of experience, and experience the result of bad judgment.” In other words, you can only learn what’s best by first experiencing what’s worst. You have made many mistakes, and you will make many more. It’s what you do afterwards that matters.
The other reason this ceremony is particularly meaningful to me is that it will be my final Moving Up Day speech. Just like you, I’m graduating from Dawson’s middle school and moving on to new challenges and experiences. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this wonderful school for the last seven years, and thinking about leaving is difficult. But I, too, have learned much in my time here, and I plan to take those lessons to my next job and to my life. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned with you, and as we embark on our new adventures, I hope this will come in handy.
First, never be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. You are so lucky to have amazing families who care so much about you and want to support you. And you have fantastic friends who would do anything for you. And you have a boatload of teachers who are looking out for you. Nobody expects you to get through life on your own. The strongest people show their strengths most when they recognize their weaknesses. So when you can’t figure out a math problem, or when you feel sad about something, or when you need to be driven around Colorado to find a benchmark, ask for help.
Second, thank all of the people who help you, even when you don’t ask for help. Remind them how important they are to you and how much you care about them. Thank your teacher for taking extra time to read over your rough draft; thank your parent for staying up with you while you finished a project; thank your friend for just being there. Don’t underestimate the power of this small gesture.
Finally, take the time to enjoy the smaller moments in your life. It is easy, especially as a student, to spend most of your time thinking about what comes next – you want to do well in Middle School to prepare for Upper School; you want to do well in Upper School to get into a good college. You want to do well in college to get into a good grad school; and so on. I often hear people talking about “real life” outside of school, as if your life in school, your life that you are living right now, weren’t real. I have news for you: your life is absolutely real – you’ve experienced real joys and real sorrows. You’ve let out real bursts of laughter, and you’ve cried real tears. It’s all real. So please, do work hard, and do prepare for the future, but don’t forget to live your life now – your very real life.
I will take these lessons with me as well, starting right now. As I leave Dawson, I will ask all of you to help me by staying in touch and letting me know how you continue to grow. And I thank you for making my job the best job anyone could have – I’ve had so much fun with you and learned so much from you. And finally, I will relish the small moments I’ve shared with you – from playing Uno with the game club to singing Carl Poppa and other goofy songs to competing fiercely in a typing competition, these are moments that I will remember. I know that as you go on to the next chapter of your lives, you will have many more small moments to remember and enjoy, and you will invariably touch the hearts of many more people, just as you have touched mine. I will truly miss you. Thank you.