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Working towards a positive school culture

I had the fun privilege of addressing the student body with the “message” to start the semester this week.  When you plan, write, and ultimately deliver these things, you worry and wonder how students (and teachers) will respond to what you have to say.  I have received some positive feedback and in an effort to document my forays into school administration and the learning I make every day, I am posting what I had to say (minus the slight improvisations and the minor word choice changes in delivery).

I hope that it set a tone for positivity and looking out for each other in our student body.  I admit I had a particular issue in mind as I considered what to say.  We have great kids here – welcoming, warm, and globally minded.  But they are also incredibly privileged teens.  Here’s hoping the students responded well to the message and it continues to build understanding for a positive school community and culture.

What I said:

Welcome back everyone.

As we head off into the second semester, I wanted to remind you that your friends, your school, your community need you. At the start of the year, Mr. Bradley, his geese and I reminded you that your success DEPENDS on the people around you. Your friends, your teachers, your counselors, your parents, even your administrators.

We are all in this together, I said. Well okay, Zach Efron said it in HS Musical, but I wasn’t quoting him at the time.

But as we head into this semester, stay together. Help each other out. Stand up for what’s right. I’ll say that one again. Stand up for what’s right.

We all know how we want to be treated. How people should be treated. And we know when we are being hurtful or teasing or just being mean. There isn’t a person in this room who doesn’t know what that looks like, sounds like, reads like on Facebook, or most importantly feels like (from either side).

So don’t let it happen. To you or anyone else. Don’t be that guy or that girl. It is possible to approach each other with optimism, friendliness, and respect. Idealistic, sure…but all it takes is choice to act positively rather than negatively. To act instead of turning a blind eye. You will never regret helping someone who needed help even if they didn’t know it. But you will always wish you had if you don’t help and something really bad happens.

It is your choice to treat others well. Your choice not to tolerate it when others don’t. It’s your choice to help keep your friends safe and ensure EVERYONE gets the respect we all deserve.

Yesterday, I asked the seniors to make sure that they got to know each other in the next 5 months. To enjoy their last semester together before everyone heads off after graduation.

Maybe the rest of you are luckier…you have even more time to get to know the amazing people that are sitting all around you… think about it…in this room are amazing people… people who sculpt or sing, or write, or run really fast, or make music or poetry or find math as easy as breathing. People who dominate on a court or field or video game … and people who somehow know exactly the right thing to say when you feel sad. You all shine somewhere, somehow. Honestly, this theater is filled with awesomeness.

Some of you are shy and some of you are bold. Some of you talk and some of you listen. But all of you have feelings. All of you can feel proud and all of you can feel hurt.

I can stand up here and ask you to follow rules, but instead on this first day of the semester, I remind you what looking after each other means. It means making sure EVERYONE has a chance to shine, to feel good and be true to themselves. It means not tolerating gossip or hateful comments and catching yourself when you might be making them. It means being honest and fair rather than hurtful and mean. It means understanding that obstacles can be overcome if we help each other. All it takes is for each one of you to decide, “I can do that.” “I can treat people well.”

I’m excited about the semester. Before you know it, it’ll be June. Balance your learning, your school life, your social lives, and your family. Look after yourself. Look after each other. Ask for help when you need it. Stand up for what you know is right and fair.

We ARE all in this together, and you are an awesome group to be in it together with. Learn, have fun and it’ll be a great semester for everyone.

See you tomorrow!

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