In June 2020, we tried to replicate the Grad Ceremony in an online meeting. This year we tried to create a celebration for our Grade 7 students that would capture their interest and excitement. This was my farewell speech to our David Livingstone Elementary Grade 7 students as their principal.
Students, teachers and our online viewers, welcome to Hollywood North!
You are leaving the smaller pond our elementary school and swimming into the much larger pond of secondary school. However you are taking with you the background experience unlike anyone who has come before you. Last year, Grade 7’s left under the haze of COVID starting in March 2020 but a year filled with fairly typical Grade 7 experiences until that point in time. You are leaving with the previously undefined experience of fear, caution, lockdowns, expanded online learning, physical distancing, masks, cohorts, restrictions, air high fives and air hugs. Previously uncharted terrain for your typical Grade 7 student.
As people are being vaccinated and cases of COVID lessen, there is less focus on fear and apprehension. There is more focus on looking forward. People are already writing books about what it has been like to live through a modern day pandemic. But what is most significant is that YOU can write that book. All of your experiences and the feelings could fill many volumes. Of the 36 students leaving Grade 7, there are 36 versions of that book. Each version carries its own truth.
I’m currently reading a book called Think Again by Adam Grant. The subtitle – The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. What is most intriguing about the book, is the fact that it isn’t the smartest people who are most able to cope with adversity or change. It is the people who are able to rethink the situation and pursue a different pathway.
Mike Lazaridis dreamed up the idea for the Blackberry as a wireless communication device for sending and receiving emails. In middle school, he made local news for building a solar panel at the science fair and won an award for reading every science book in the public library. In his eight grade yearbook, there is a cartoon of Mike as a mad scientist, with bolts of lightning shooting out of his head. By 2008, his Blackberry company was worth $70 billion dollars. By 2014, the market share had plummeted to less than 1% of smart phone users in the US. What happened?
In 2010, when one of Mike’s colleagues pitched the idea of sending encrypted messages. He passed. What’s App saw the potential of text messaging to the tune of $19 billion dollars. When the idea of typing on a glass screen rather than on the tiny keyboard emerged with thumbs. He laughed. Steve Jobs saw the potential. Apple was off and running. Clearly Mike Lazaridis was a smart guy. He just couldn’t rethink or adopt another perspective. He couldn’t unlearn what he already knew.
Adam Grant talks about four approaches to the way people think and live their lives:
- The first type of person digs in their heels and argues their point of view is right. They ever question their ideas. This type of person takes offence at other perspectives or anyone questioning their conclusions.
- The second type of person completely focuses is on proving others wrong. This person focuses on discrediting rather than discovering.
- The third type of person will appease the audience at any cost. This is the politician in the group. Popularity rather than accuracy dictates their views.
- The final type of person assumes scientist mode. This person is actively open minded; searching for reasons why we might be wrong; not for reasons why we must be right. Revising views is based on what is learned. Changing minds are acts of intellectual integrity for a person in scientist mode.
Intellectual curiosity and openness to new discoveries. This is the skill set you’ve been taught since kindergarten. This goes hand in hand with curriculum in British Columbia. All those inquiry studies. All those questions to pursue. All that predicting and testing hypotheses.
The COVID pandemic has certainly thrust you into the full understanding of uncertainty. Yet, you are equipped to not only handle it but to pursue your very own version of truth. I look forward to reading about it. Or perhaps watching it on a screen in Hollywood, California. With that, I wish you all of the very best as you swim off into your next pond.