Serendipity:                                                                                                                                    The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

Each year, like most schools in the world, the month of May and June is filled with celebrations (and exams). At ISP we have had our graduation ceremony for high school students, our Moving Up ceremony for grade 5 students, and today we held our annual rite of passage for grade 8 students, the Leavers Ceremony.

My speech focused on the importance of risk taking to the learning process. Later in the ceremony serendipity struck as I listened to grade 8 student Seojin’s closing remarks which touched on the very same theme, but from a very different perspective. It was obvious from the audience’s enthusiastic applause that Seojin’s speech hit the mark perfectly. Here are excerpts from both speeches beginning with my welcome address:

You are now about to leave MS and join the upper school or high school as it’s called. I know this may feel like a big deal, I know that you might feel nervous about this next step in your student career, but I don’t want you to worry. Yes, it will be a significant change and it may feel like the stakes are higher, and they are, but there’s no rush, really, as you grow as a young person, you should continue look around and learn.

Life is all about learning about yourself and the world around you. And learning is all about learning from mistakes–yes it’s a cliche and it’s also true. This is something very important about learning that we always stress at ISP. You can even find a quote from the great basketball player, Michael Jordan near the entrance of the school which emphasises this point:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”


The most successful people in the world in any field understand the importance of learning from mistakes, but the only way to learn from mistakes is to be willing to try and fail and learn from it

I like the way an upper school student put it when he said you learn how to skateboard by learning how to fall, not by not falling. If you are not willing to fall, you’ll never learn how to fall and never learn how to skateboard. And that’s what school should be all about, not avoiding risks and aiming for perfection or an A or a 7, but truly learning. As the great educator Grant Wiggins put it, “The point of school is not to get good at school.” The purpose of school is to learn.

So take these next four years as a gift for you to take advantage of the opportunity to learn how to learn. Be hungry to learn, be willing to take risks and you’ll be ready to take on the world when you graduate from high school!

Now here’s Seojin’s take on risk taking:

Middle school is such an awkward, vague and grey area, where you are treated like a little kid but expected to act like an adult. We get so much homework that we sometimes stay up all night but then our teachers give us a ‘’Wellness’’ survey that asks us, ‘’How many hours of sleep did you get on average this week?’’ We’re taught that making mistakes and taking risks are good but nobody compliments you when you make mistakes.

People always tell you to take risks and learn from mistakes. Honestly, I always hated that because it seemed stupid. What if I prefer doing something that I’m familiar with? What if I hate making mistakes? What if I’d rather live a boring, uneventful life than live an adventurous, risky and complicated life that is overflowing with mistakes?

But then I decided to look at that statement from a different perspective since I didn’t want to feel the pain in my gluteus maximus every time I heard somebody saying that. The familiar and safe activities that I prefer, how did they become old and familiar? The only way was to try them. Before trying, nothing can be old and familiar.

Risk-taking isn’t always spectacular that involves a lot of actions. It’s not necessarily an activity that risks your life. The cup of coffee you had this morning, that once used to be new and risky. Going downstairs, like those we just walked down, that once used to be new and risky. All the things that we do everyday were big risks at some point. It’s true that some might be risker than others, but still, they’re all risk taking. Everything is risk-taking.

In 5, 10, 15, 25, 50 and maybe 100 years, we’ll all be at different stages of life. Some of us will go to college, get married and might have children. All of us, are going to die. Nevertheless, none of us know when and how and why we are going to die. I might die this year, this month, this week, today or even right now. Well, I didn’t. So it is very important that you live a life that you aren’t going to regret.

With that said” Class of 2022, please be ware of this. Going to middle school and graduating were also huge risk – takings. And now that we are used to Middle School, we are getting kicked out to the dangerous and unfamiliar High School. And it will be awkward, but it will be fine. All of you truly deserve a round of applause and you should be proud of yourself. Congratulations. Thank you

I was pleased to see how Seojin was willing to tell it like it is and hold us educators accountable for our actions. With leaders like Seojin, I’m confident our students are moving on the right track. Congratulations to all!

Grade 8 “Leavers”




  1. Thanks for sharing both speeches. I loved reading Seojin’s perspective and especially felt inspired by her point that adults tell kids to take risks, but no one applauds mistakes. I wonder how, as teachers, we could better encourage and show appreciation for the mistake-making process as part of the success-finding journey? Hopefully, your school’s new focus on gradelessness might hold some answers. I could see an environment where there aren’t grades being better for supporting the message that mistakes are an important part of learning because in a gradeless classroom students aren’t “punished” for mistakes in the form of bad grades.


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