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As a Superintendent of Schools I give a graduation speech to the seniors each year. This is the third year in a row that I post my graduation speech in hopes that others, who have to give speeches, will do the same on their sites. My thought, three years ago, was for the posting of graduation speeches to be a way for our educational community to share our messages and ideas we want our graduates to leave our schools thinking about as they head into their future.
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Welcome to Graduation.

Each year graduates listen to the advice of the speakers at their graduation ceremonies who come up to impart some recommendations for life after high school. Sometimes that advice is very intricate based on the speaker’s experience and the fact that life can be rather complex and involved.

However, over the years, I have found that the best advice is often the simplest.

In 1989 Robert Fulghum published All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The book made me think about how complex advice can be and what you really needed to know as high school graduates. So I took a page out of this book and I asked our Spotswood and Milltown Kindergartners what advice they have for you upon graduation. Our Kindergartners came up with over 40 suggestions.

And here’s 10 pieces of advice that they told me they want you to know, with a little interpretation from me:

Do what you want to do, don’t copy your friends

It’s important to be happy with what you do in life. What makes your friends happy may not make you happy. So go through life doing what you want to do, not what your friends do.

Follow directions, unless it is a bad thing to do

Kindergartners understand the value in doing what’s right and understanding when it’s not. Life will give you good and bad directions. The hard part is figuring out which ones are good and which are bad.

You should learn how to be a parent

Yes, this is something in your future but it came up multiple times on the classroom lists. To Kindergartners their parents are very important. As seniors in high school your parents should still be very important. And they should always be important to you. But Kindergartners want you to know that it’s important for YOU to learn to be a parent.

Being a parent will be one of the most, if not most, important responsibilities in your life. There is no manual for it and so you will need to do what you feel is best for your child or children as they grow up. But most importantly, take this responsibility serious.

Worry about yourself

This advice has two meanings to me. The first reminds me of a quote by Olympic Figure Skating Champion Peggy Fleming, “Compete against yourself, not others, for that is who is truly your best competition.” We spend so much time worrying about things out of our control that we lose focus on what really matters… which is YOU.

My second interpretation of this statement is that they want you to take care of yourself as you leave high school. Your physical, emotional, and financial health are important as you become adults. Don’t diminish the importance of any of these three areas.

Use nice words

It’s easy to forget that what we say means something. Our words can hurt, offend, help, console, or provide motivation. We should always be aware of the words we choose to use and as much as possible we should use nice words.

Keep your great friends and make new friends

Kindergartners are wise beyond their years. Great friends are so important. It will be hard to keep all your friends as your life changes, but your great friends will always be there for you. As life goes on, it’s also important to make new friends and hopefully some of those new friends will become great friends too. But the most important part of this advice is to understand that to Kindergartners, friends are your friends even when you don’t agree, get in an argument, or you are not happy with that person. They are always willing to forgive a friend and that’s why they have so many great friends.

Learn how to cook

Your parents probably love hearing this one. But as you get older your responsibilities will expand and learning to cook is a sign that you are becoming an independent adult. But make sure you learn to cook real food that does not involve the microwave.

Work hard and do your best

There’s value in hard work and trying your best. But more importantly Kindergartners understand that if you are going to do something you go at it 100%. Shortcuts are often not beneficial to you personally or professionally. And people appreciate when you do your best. Especially, your future employer.

Learn to listen

We all want to be heard and feel that we have important things to say. Kindergartners know that in life it’s also important to not only listen but be a good listener. They listen to directions, and lessons, and what their classmates have to say. Some of them are such attentive listeners that they will put their face in their hands, sit forward, and listen in awe to what is being said. You should listen to what people have to say, how they say it, and understand what they are saying. You don’ have to agree with everything people say, but you should learn to listen to what they do say.

Celebrate all the things you learned

After all the hard work and effort, Kindergartners understand that you need to have a little fun. So make sure you take time to celebrate all of life’s successes and all you have learned. You can follow their advice today by celebrating your accomplishments that led to graduation.

Congratulations Class of 2015!

I wish you much joy and success in the future, and I hope that the advice of our Kindergartners will help you as you leave high school.

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