“When I was 5 years old my mother told me that happiness was the key to life.
When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I wrote down “happy”.
They told me I didn’t understand the assignment.
I told them they didn’t understand life.”
This quote has been attributed to John Lennon, but there is a question as to whether he really said it. But that doesn’t matter to me. The quote highlights my philosophy of life and of what ‘school’ should be.
During my time as an educator, I have noticed that there are a lot of problems with ‘school’:
So many believe that a large amount of homework equates to a solid learning experience, even at the expense of family time, extracurricular activities, and time to just be a kid.
So many believe that grades are the driving force of school, rather than questioning whether these grades demonstrate true understanding. Know this – grades do not measure intelligence.
Letter grades and numbers do not define any of us. All of you are more than a test score or letter grade can ever show. You are enough, just by being who you are. You matter – to everyone in this room, to your family, to all of your friends and teachers, to me.
My son, Maddox, and I were discussing an article that we read about the most popular class in the history of Yale. It is a course entitled Psychology and the Good Life. It is basically a class about happiness. Some cynics might say that students might have signed up because it’s an easy class without homework and not many requirements. But when you read about many who took this course, you will hear stories of sacrifice. Sacrificing much of their childhood, many years of school, so much time that could have spend with their families, that they don’t know how to be happy. I wonder how many of us feel the same – that we don’t know how to be happy. Parents, families, I challenge you to preserve our kids’ childhood, to protect them from losing time, to allow them the opportunity to just be happy. You and I know that we never get our childhood back once we leave. (Well, unless you’re me and act like a kid most of the time, but that’s another story).
I often speak about the need to protect childhood. What’s the rush? Yes, I care about your academic success. But I care more about how you treat others, about how you care for this world, about the difference they will make in the lives of those around you.
You are going to take many tests and hand in many assignments. And people are going to tell you that getting the correct answers is what it’s all about. And I’m certainly not telling you to not strive for the correct answers. Getting your high school degree and possibly a college degree are important to certain types of jobs you might be seeking. What I am saying is something that Erno Rubik, creator of the Rubik’s Cube said – “Questions are more important than the answers.” I believe this. And those of you that believe this will be those who truly change the world. Because you won’t be OK with the way things are. You will question why things can’t change. And then you will be that change.
And ‘school’ should be about making mistakes and taking risks. Resiliency is a skill that every one of us needs. Because life is not easy and there will be times that you fall and you will fail. I promise you that. You will fail. And that’s more than OK. What’s more important is what you do after. How do you learn from your ‘failure’? How do you get back up and try again?
School should also be about finding your why. What is within you that you need to share with the world? So many adults go to work each day dreading what they do. Don’t be like them. Find your passion and live it.
I’m not sure if you even think about it, but we talk about every single one of you. We have meetings with your teachers to talk about your progress and about any barriers that might exist that prevents you from being successful. We also ask if there is anything else we can do to help you. And when we are talking about you, I end up saying the same thing every single time – “Man, I love that kid.” And I catch myself, and I smile because I say it about every single one of you. You see, my mission when I began my education career started off being to make kids’ lives better but it has evolved into how can I make the lives of all those around me better. And what happens is along the way to those of us in school trying to help make your lives better, is that you end up making our lives better too. Thank you for making your friends better. Thank you for making this school better. Thank you for making my life better. You are all my kids and I love each of you so very much. Now go out there and show the world what the young people of Gator Run have to offer. Go show them what kindness and compassion are. Show them what creativity and hard work look like. Change the world.