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Thread: H.S. Commencement Speech: You're Not Special

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    H.S. Commencement Speech: You're Not Special

    Wellesley High grads told: “You’re not special”

    http://www.theswellesleyreport.com/2...e-not-special/

    Snipped

    Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman! [Editor’s upgrade: Or The Swellesley Report!] And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

    But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.



    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lfxYhtf8o4"]You Are Not Special Commencement Speech from Wellesley High School - YouTube[/ame]

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    Excellent speech. I wish more commencement speeches were so pithy, yet short, good-humored and so appropriate in this day and age.
    The greatest trespasser on justice still wishes it done to him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CarolinaMoon View Post
    Excellent speech. I wish more commencement speeches were so pithy, yet short, good-humored and so appropriate in this day and age.
    Right on!
    "I bear the chain I forged in life...I made it of my own free will and of my own free will I wore it....your chain was fully as long as this seven Christmas Eve's ago - and you have labored on it since." Jacob Marley

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    Omg I love it. I think students should hear that entering high school. I know I could benefit from hearing it occasionally myself.

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    You know, I get what this guy (and so many others who roll their eyes at the "special snowflakes") are trying to say, but it really rubs me the wrong way.

    I don't think the problem is that kids think they're so special. They ARE. What we really need to be teaching kids (and adults!) is that everyone is unique and special. Every one of us has our own gifts and flaws and personality, and there is no one else exactly like us.

    But instead of that making them eligible for special treatment, we need to teach them to look at other people as just as unique and special as they are. No matter if that person is disabled or beautiful or fat or skinny or ugly or black or brown or gay or straight or brilliant or whatever. They are one of a kind just like you and we need to remember that.

    When they are tempted to judge or dismiss or ignore or put down that person, they need to remember that the target of their venom is also unique and special and has their own story about how they got here.

    Even though these two ideas are connected, I'm not sure that saying everyone is the same is the way to get that message across because we obviously are not all the same.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angels_Not_Forgotten View Post
    Omg I love it. I think students should hear that entering high school. I know I could benefit from hearing it occasionally myself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by angelmom View Post
    You know, I get what this guy (and so many others who roll their eyes at the "special snowflakes") are trying to say, but it really rubs me the wrong way.

    I don't think the problem is that kids think they're so special. They ARE. What we really need to be teaching kids (and adults!) is that everyone is unique and special. Every one of us has our own gifts and flaws and personality, and there is no one else exactly like us.

    But instead of that making them eligible for special treatment, we need to teach them to look at other people as just as unique and special as they are. No matter if that person is disabled or beautiful or fat or skinny or ugly or black or brown or gay or straight or brilliant or whatever. They are one of a kind just like you and we need to remember that.

    When they are tempted to judge or dismiss or ignore or put down that person, they need to remember that the target of their venom is also unique and special and has their own story about how they got here.

    Even though these two ideas are connected, I'm not sure that saying everyone is the same is the way to get that message across because we obviously are not all the same.
    I guess I kinda took what he said about everyone being special means no one is special as truth. I mean if everyone is special, is there one more special than another? And in life, there WILL be someone special to take you're place if you become complacent. That's why I especially loved the part about finding your passion and make it last forever. not exactly quoting. Some of the best words I heard my granny say, although not quite as eloquently, "**** if you look at everything like its a chore you're gonna be pretty bitter. We work the garden early because were blessed enough to have it, ain't that enough? Lol (didn't seem like it at 6am when I was 13,but as a 28 year old mother, I cherish that thought.)

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    I don't think for a moment that the students listening to that speech didn't "get it" better than their parents. You could just tell from the faces of the students in the background and the understanding nods and laughter in their faces.

    I taught foreign language for 31+ years and had more than a few head-to-head conferences with helicopter parents who begged, cajoled, and even threatened me if their "special" child didn't get a pass or a higher grade.

    The excuses ran the gambit from "they don't need this subject for the college they want to attend" to "if he/she doesn't pass, he/she won't get a scholarship or will be rejected by their college of choice." In essence Iwould be ruinng their "special" child's future.

    The fact is, I never bought into the "never tell a child he/she is wrong" philosophy of education. I never bought into the "good job" call when it was a "bad job". The kids knew it was bogus. I remember one day, on the morning announcements, a sports team getting a "good job" accolade when they didn't even score a point! As they heard it, team members laughed at the comment and said that they had sucked. They knew, why didn't the adults? They could have done without the cheery news that they had done a good job. They needed to just hear the results.

    My response to all the pressure the students were under was, on the first day of classes, I guaranteed them they would all pass the class. Maybe not an A or B, but that they would pass. All they had to do was come prepared to class with their homework, pay attention, and study for tests and quizzes. I offered students who "weren't getting" it all the extra help they needed. I told them that if they failed a test or did well below their normal "best" they could re-take it after a session of extra help. I talked to them about the fact that the subject would be easier for some than others. I told them of my own difficulties with higher mathematics. I told them they all needed to work for their personal best.

    The fact is, I had learned that I wasn't really giving a guarantee. All the students who met the basics passed the class all on their own. Those who skipped the homework (very necessary in that subject) and fooled around during class, and spent endless days anywhere but in school just didn't make the cut. Some may have passed, but others learned nothing much and needed to repeat the class before going on to the more difficult next level. They just weren't ready to move on.

    I was being observed by the principal one day and was returning tests. One student had gotten a "C" and erupted in joy, showing the paper to her classmates, who praised her for her grade. Needless to say, the principal had a puzzled look on her face. She asked the student why she was so happy about a "C" and the student replied that it was the BEST grade she had gotten so far. She was happy to have moved up from F's and D's and her classmates were happy for her. One day, I saw a look on her face that was priceless. After having spent a semester working hard every day and having no clue what she was doing, she "got it" and all the puzzle pieces of the language fell into place for her. It finally made sense. She never scored lower than a "B" in that class and in the higher levels I had the privilege to teach her.

    I prize the memory of each student who had that moment. I loved that there was a moment of total clarity for each one. They felt empowered that they could master something that they had never thought they could.

    Yes, each child is special and has their strengths and weaknesses. They don't need to be told what they are, they know. But, behind them there are often parents who want their child to be special in everything they do. As the speaker said, they have been
    pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman!
    Some may have bought into all they have been told and don't understand that it's not being "special" that is important, but knowing what they have earned for themselves and following their individual dreams is. Symbols such a trophies, awards, and perfect university placement are more important to them than that feeling in the gut that they are doing what will make them happy in the long run.

    You can probably tell by the length of this post that I am strongly opinionated about the topic! I have just one thing to add.

    My nephew is a fledgling mathematics professor at a major university. While studying, he had taught calculus to many students in his 10-year pursuit of his doctorate. Calculus is one subject where I never had the "aha" moment and I am in awe of his career. When he had to decide his major before moving from community college to a state university, he told me he didn't know what subject he would like to teach. He was thinking of going into physical education.

    If you knew him, you would know that his sports involvement was limited to some street tennis. Huh? I asked him what his favorite subject was. He immediately told me he loved mathematics. Why not study that? Well, he did, and the rest is history.

    Oh, and if you think this was a good speech to give before entering high school, it is also the perfect speech for those entering college as well. My nephew has had too many students give up on calculous and too many requests for a "pass" on the subject. He's had irate parents calling him. He's so stressed out about it.

    Who is he teaching? Future engineers! Calculus is just the beginning for them. If they can't handle that, how will they ever be good engineers?
    The greatest trespasser on justice still wishes it done to him.

    EDWARD COUNSEL, Maxims

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    EXCELLENT post, Carolina Moon! I taught high school English for many years, and I know how it feels to have a parent "demand" that you give their little darling a higher grade- ugh. The worst were the AP parents, some of them anyway. Quite a few were prominent in the community and buddied around with principals and school board members, donating money and kissing ass so their kids could get placed into Honors or AP classes where they did. not. belong. As you know, there is a HUGE difference between a regular "honors" course and a nationally structured Advanced Placement course, just as there is a HUGE difference between scoring a "2" on an AP Essay versus scoring a "5" on that essay. Although I enjoyed the motivation and (sometimes) brilliance of the advanced students, I eventually switched to teaching at alternative schools, and I loved it. THOSE parents were thrilled if their kids avoided expulsion and summer school! And a few of those kids were really, really smart; they just hated school and often came from homes where reading/education was not a priority. The speech referenced in this thread is pretty good; lol, on an "AP" scale I would rate it a "3"... and yes, I know I am being obnoxious here- HOWEVER!! If any of you want to read a commencement speech that would receive the highest possible score in my book, a speech that is one of the most... beautiful things I have EVER read in my life... then look up and read the writer David Foster Wallace's commencement speech that he gave to Kenyon College several years back. Before he committed suicide. That speech is a masterpiece, and I think our writer from the high school was shooting for the same effect, but he never came close. I am not saying that to belittle him; it's just that his speech was Salieri and Foster's speech is Mozart. If you haven't already read it, please look it up online and do so, and see if you agree with me- Thanks!!
    George Eliot: "We constantly ask for God's mercy while showing none ourselves..."

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    Oh I love David Foster Wallace. Love that Kenyon speech, love his writing. I saved Infinite Jest for last of his stuff to read, and I'm still plowing through it, have to put it down for a while at a time. So much brilliance, what a loss of talent and just a wonderful, deep, thoughtful human being. Thank you for bringing him up, Annmarie.
    “Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all." -Abp Oscar Romero

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gardenlady View Post
    Oh I love David Foster Wallace. Love that Kenyon speech, love his writing. I saved Infinite Jest for last of his stuff to read, and I'm still plowing through it, have to put it down for a while at a time. So much brilliance, what a loss of talent and just a wonderful, deep, thoughtful human being. Thank you for bringing him up, Annmarie.
    I just dashed off to find out about this guy and I can't believe I hadn't heard about him! I mean, talk about falling through the cracks... anyway, I feel like an entire summer's worth a superb writing just fell into my lap!

    (I'm going to have to get out to the poolside in the mornings and really sink in... Thanks for introducing him to us, AnnMarie, and Gardenlady too.)


    Regarding the helicopter parenting that's spread like a bad rash! I remember how precious and hard won my brothers' trophies were, and in one generation this all inclusive virus of "everyone's special" acknowledgements at every turn has rendered time honored traditions of excellence into meaningless platitudes. My kids came home with backpacks stuffed with paper "awards" and certificates of one type or another on a weekly basis, and you're right, they knew they were meaningless. Trophies and ribbons by the score ended up in the bottom of the toy boxes as just so much clutter set adrift with matchbox cars, beanie babies, gumball trinkets, and crackerjack prizes.

    (By the time they really received something they'd earned, the shine had gone off the entire ritual and it was like, "Yeah, thanks." )


    Oh, something else that's come to my attention regarding recent grads... though I didn't attend because I was accompanying my elderly mother directly to the after party: At my niece's HS graduation people got up and left after their child walked!!!! And this wasn't a multi-school affair, it was her classmates and their entourages! Boy oh boy, I think that's so rude! What about the Y and Z classmates? Was no one there to witness them? That just blows my mind-- I'd melt and die before I did that. JMO

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