“It feels like just yesterday as a Kindergarten teacher I overheard a student as he leaned over to whisper to his neighbor;
‘Are teachers human?’
The friend replied, ‘Yes, I think so, they have babies.’
I hope by now you are convinced that we are indeed human!
In all my human-ness, I’ve been growing up alongside you! And as much as perhaps teachers have left a mark in your lives, you’ve no doubt left one on ours as well.
It’s been a privilege to be part of your journey…part of your story. It’s actually been redeeming when I consider these past years alongside my own education.
In preparing for today, I struggled for the words that would be appropriate to share, what funny story or bit of experience I could pass on, what thing you haven’t heard that would be meaningful to you?
It is entirely possible you are already aware of all I have to say.
My goal is that whether you’ve been here many years, or just a few, that you’d recognize that you’ve been given a gift (from your speeches today, it would seem that you do) and that you’d be challenged to walk in manner that reflects that gift wherever life finds you.
That gift is the result of those who have intentionally been working (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to fulfill the mission of our school day in and day out…if you are uncertain of what that mission has been, I can assure you it hasn’t been to see that you wore a uniform, tucked in your shirt or had a belt all these years!
It has been…
“To provide a place where you would be guided and empowered to author a full and free life, a life rich in relationship to God, self, others, ideas, and all of creation.”
So what does that mean? It means that our heart has been to help you develop habits for learning and life, to provide a feast that puts you in touch with ideas, and facilitate an atmosphere where learning and friendship could flourish. It means People here have believed in your potential, holding you to higher standards than you might claim for yourself, and held your character development as a priority. You’ve been able to experience knowledge through relationship.
Perhaps it’s hard to recognize what a gift ‘knowledge through relationship’ is unless you’ve experienced a different perspective.
As a middle schooler I was not given such a gift. While I had a few good teachers along the way, there was not a heart to help me cultivate habits of learning. A C was a C. and I bought into the idea that a C must be all I am capable of, for no one told me any different. No one spoke about growth, potential, or ideas. Nor challenged me to read good books.
As far as atmosphere, students negatively labeled and classified one another as if you could only be one thing- the smart kid, the weird one from art or the basketball player or ‘athlete’… And, rarely did those lines cross by way of friendship.
I didn’t fit neatly into any one of these things.
At my school, No one thought to teach a skill like conflict resolution and after a conflict with some friends that failed to reconcile, I entered high school very much alone.
Can you see the gift you’ve been given in contrast?
God is so big and awesome! He’s has used this place to educate you as well as bring redemption to me. I’ve gotten a bit of re-do…so to speak…
Because like you, I’ve committed worthy pieces of text to memory,
Observed beauty in nature (if you remember, I had my own journal)
Experienced the depth and power of music
Enjoyed the freedom to worship, learn about and grow in a relationship with our Creator
Been captivated by the stories of the real and the imaginary!
I’ve developed deep friendships and learned skills to resolve conflicts. In moments of darkness have had those same dear friends see more in me than I could ever see in myself.
No doubt there have been highs and lows- I watched a community cheer an underdog team to victory in an unforgettable win, and bring comfort to a friend during a time of deep loss.
Community is a gift!
What will you remember? Of course, as time passes, you might not…
Sadly, lessons learned whether from fact or fable can be lost and forgotten over time.
As you come to understand this incredible gift you’ve been given by way of education, what will you take with you?
I hope the Relationships- be it with varied subjects as well as people.
They are what make this time irreplaceable and unforgettable And because of those relationships I hope that you are taking with you a clearer sense of who you truly are…people with amazing capacity for the good, true and beautiful should you choose it.
Author Eugene Peterson wrote:
“God does not dump information on us. He does not “home school” us in mathematics and biology. ‘Wisdom and insight’ are knowledge lived out…We know a thing, a truth, a person only in relationship.”
High School will afford you growing opportunities for independence and freedom, how will you use it? Will you pursue relationship with the good, true and beautiful, now that you’ve seen and tasted it? Because anything less than a reflection of all you’ve been given will be at the very least sad and at most tragic.
Will you continue to employ and seek to grow in habits that will serve you well?
Persevere despite the challenges like Helen Keller?
Will you extend friendship to new faces and breathe life to those around you (like the sacrificial lessons learned from Charlotte way back in second grade?)
Will you use your conflict resolution skills to reconcile and forgive when needed?
Will you pursue justice, even when the risk is great like Atticus?
Will you take suffering and use it for good like Frederick Douglas? You’ve been exposed to so much more than I could mention here.
In Moving on to the next phase of your journey, you will face new challenges, experience some suffering, inevitably fail at times, and without a doubt get into mischief (Peter Rabbit style)…
But when these occasions arise, hopefully, there will be an echo in your memory, deep in your being. The echo of teachers and friends who left imprints on your lives, breathed life into story, gave hope to each challenge, encouraged, demonstrated patience, and laughed with you, pointed you to Christ.
I hope that you’ll recall who you truly are, and reflect the gift you’ve been given, that you’ll live out the knowledge as ‘wisdom and insight’ leading the way for others.
I am a huge fan of all C.S. Lewis books, particularly the children’s books (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that)
There is a part in Prince Caspian when Lucy sees Aslan for the first time since her last encounter in Narnia:
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” Answered He.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
It has been beautiful redemption to grow alongside you through your school days here. I pray you take with you the staggering revelation that God is actively involved within and overall.
I hope you leave hear with the very real sense that you are part of a bigger, ongoing story and
I pray you find God ever bigger in your own story as you take these relationships and embrace new ones for years to come!”