Each spring, the seniors leave campus about a month before the year ends to go off and work on fun projects or in internships. Prior to their excited departure, we come together as a community to wish them well and bid them the beginning of a number of escalating adieus. The first is called “Senior Send-off,” and it is one of my favorite events. The students dress in their college gear, faculty share some encouragements and wisdoms, and the sixth graders sing to the departing class and give each member a white rose, and they are off. This class was special. But I probably feel that way honestly about each class. There is something so beautifully sad to watch a group of young people grow, learn, challenge, and then move on. Some of them we will know about their next steps and others will choose to move into their future without turning back. Regardless, I will miss this group and wonder what they are up to and what cool things they are trying out and who they are becoming. It was a complete honor to address them yesterday. It makes saying goodbye even harder:
“Nine years ago in my first year of teaching here at Beaver, I used to have this recurring dream, or nightmare really. Standing in my classroom, working through some lesson about how History is the most important subject you will ever know, Mr. Hutton would walk into the room and say, “That’s enough. Thank you for trying.” I was suffering from a severe case of “Imposter Syndrome.” Being a teacher was new, different, and uncomfortable and everyday I felt like I was making mistakes, lots of mistakes.
That is where you come in, as your Grade Team Leader and teacher, you have been my greatest teachers in the art of perseverance. Recent pundits have described you, the Class of 2018, as risk averse. They say that as “young people raised in a post-2008 Recession America, you witnessed the loss of 9 million jobs along with 8 million homes due to foreclosure.” You have seen that the cliff really does have an edge. They describe you as “careful realists.” After reading this, I got defensive. The pundits have it all wrong. I have learned to make mistakes and be risk-ready and risk-willing by watching you embrace the line between the well-beaten path and the unexpected outcome. These last four years, I have seen first-hand your self-directed and confident pursuit of your academic passions. It is cliche for an older generation to be concerned about the rising one. But I am not concerned about you.
You have shaped this community. Your imprint on Beaver will be long-lasting because you drive the change we see in the hallways through your willingness to take on new initiatives, to become entrepreneurs, to adhere to service, to attend conferences that challenged your perceptions on race and identity and inclusion, to lead dialogues, to walk out, to get messy in a design process not knowing exactly what your deliverable would be on the other side, to travel to distant places in order to bridge relationships, to build teams on the turf, to share your soul on the stage, and to always make it to class on time (mostly).
Harvard Business Review has noted in various articles that “men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.” When the women were asked about this, it was discovered that those who weren’t applying believed they needed the qualifications not just to do the job but to get hired in the first place. They didn’t see the importance of advocacy, relationships, and a creative approach to framing one’s expertise. These are three skills you have in spades. As someone who was once quite risk averse and as someone who is lucky enough to watch students every day question, react, respond, and defy, I know you have that mindset. So I have a few hopes for you the Class of 2018:
That you remember the relationships you have fostered here. That you continue to trust yourself. That you never stop asking questions, lots and lots of questions. That you are not afraid to ask for help. And that you never take yourself out of the game, even if you don’t feel qualified. In teaching many of you this senior spring, I saw the importance of laughter and of not taking ourselves too seriously. Because let’s be serious, our classes together got a bit ridiculous and your pranks made us all laugh (and roll our eyes). So stay playful. It’s your best quality. And remove from yourself that false expectation of perfection. As the author Daniel Pink notes, “Make excellent mistakes.” It will bring you closer to yourself, to others, and to that destination you feel yourself moving towards every day. Dare to dream, dare to reach, and dare to be daring. Thank you.”