School

Ninety-nine percent perspiration

Thomas Edison


As we do each year, ISP has a variety of celebrations to recognize students who are moving from one part of the school to another, as well as of course our grand graduation ceremony. The focus of my talk this year to grade 8 students was on the importance of “taking stock” and on the power of mindset, see below:

“This time of year is always bittersweet in that on the one hand we anticipate a well deserved summer vacation and look forward to the end of a busy and productive year, but at the same time we can also experience a sense of loss. This is of course natural

Earlier this week we had the “Moving Up” ceremony, recognizing grade 5 students as they “Move up” to MS. In May, we had the annual Graduation Ceremony for our Seniors, this is a momentous occasion when our our graduates not only move up but move out into the world and become independent young adults. Each one of these moments deserve recognition and reflection.

I recently had a conversation with someone who didn’t understand why our school made such a fuss with special ceremonies commemorating students moving from one section to another. And many schools don’t have such celebrations. But I think that as we go through life, there is a place to pause and to reflect and look back on what we have accomplished and look forward to what is ahead of us. And so we have today what’s called the grade 8 leavers ceremony. This is one of those moments in your lives.

Grade 8 Leavers Ceremony


So what are you leaving behind and what are you looking forward to? Each of you will have a different answer to that question. For many of you, I would venture to guess, it is the unique MS culture that you have experienced over the past few years and the special relationships that you have formed with your friends and with your special teachers and staff. For others it may be the physical environments of the MS that you have called home for three years. Whatever it is, this is a time to not only celebrate this change in your lives, but to reflect and prepare for what’s coming next. I don’t mean to sound ominous about what’s next, because it will be fun and exciting and challenging and you’re all ready for high school whether you know it or not. So as you anticipate your next steps, think about what you wish to get out of the next four years. 

As educators, one of the things we have come to realize more and more is how capable young people really are if they are given the opportunity to try and fail and learn from failure. In Silicon Valley they call it Failing Forward.  This is what I wish for each of you as you prepare for high school. Be willing to try and believe in yourself and be willing to fail. These aren’t simply nice words, but this sentiment is actually based on research.

Something you may have learned about is called mindset. It is a concept coined by Stanford University professor and researcher Carol Dweck. What she learned through her research is that there are two kinds of mindset each of us have. A growth and a fixed mindset. Here’s how Dweck defined these two traits:

‘In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.’

One startling thing that Dweck discovered was that those of us with a fixed mindset have the ability to change it to a growth mindset. It’s like when someone says, I’m not good at art or math. The truth is that we can accomplish much more than we think if we believe we have the ability to do it and the will to expend our efforts to accomplish something. As the great inventor Thomas Edison said:

‘None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Here’s how Dweck recommends we respond to our fixed mindsets:

‘THE FIXED-MINDSET says “Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent.”

THE GROWTH-MINDSET answers, “I’m not sure I can do it now, but I think I can learn to with time and effort.”

FIXED MINDSET: “What if you fail—you’ll be a failure”

GROWTH MINDSET: “Most successful people had failures along the way.”

FIXED MINDSET: “If you don’t try, you can protect yourself and keep your dignity.”

GROWTH MINDSET: “If I don’t try, I automatically fail. Where’s the dignity in that?”’

I like the way the great basketball player Michael Jordan put it:

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 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…. I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.

So my message to each of you is to remember to believe in yourself,  put in the effort to reach your goals, and be willing to fail, that’s a winning combination.”

 

A Surprising Tranquility – My Day at PreKindergarten

One of the best ways for adults to really understand how a student experiences life and learning in school is by spending a full day shadowing a student. A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about my experience of shadowing grade 4 student, Maria: A day in the life – Shadow a Student Challenge. This year many of our leaders at ISP are shadowing students, including Tony McLaughlin, ISP Communications Manager. He tells his story called “A Surprising Tranquility” below:

This week I took on the International Shadow a Student Challenge at ISP. It certainly proved an interesting and enlightening experience, and I think and certainly hope my ‘classmates’ enjoyed me being around too!

Some of my “classmates”

I have worked at ISP for almost a year now and it has in some respects been quite a steep learning curve, not least in terms of getting to grips with some of the educational terminology used around the school. I have, however, greatly enjoyed familiarising myself during my time at ISP with the day-to-day workings of the school and how teachers go about the business of educating students in such a diverse environment. Spending the day shadowing in PKK (PreKindergarten) came about rather organically through a conversation with Jimena Zalba, Elementary School Associate Principal, about the possibility of shadowing in the ES. This led to a subsequent chat with PKK teacher (and my fellow Scot!) Ms Kerry about the possibility of joining her class and she responded very positively.

My ‘official’ shadow buddy Amalia

While I was looking forward to the shadowing day, I must admit to having a very slight feeling of trepidation. I wondered for, example, if the children might react with shyness? Maybe they would behave differently due to my presence? I needn’t have worried, as the initial reactions of the students ranged from apparent apathy to amusement, with quite a few thoughts in between that I couldn’t quite detect.

During the initial 15-minute session of the PKK day I attempted to integrate myself with my classmates after Ms Kerry had introduced me as being a “big kid” for the day. The day, from my perspective at least, didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts. My initial attempt to enquire whether the large box they were playing in was a house or a den was met with an almost deadpan, “This isn’t a house – it’s just a box”. In a way though this put me at ease as it reminded me of something my own children might say.

The first part of the day – the short free choice section was when I was introduced to the girl I would shadow, Amalia. Amalia informed me right away how to say “hello” in Hebrew. It quickly became clear that shadowing a day in the life of a single student was in fact a whole class affair, as I was fortunate to have the opportunity to observe and speak to all children in the class over the course of the day.

Ms Kerry reads The Terrible Plop

For me it was an eye-opener to see the day unfold as it offered something of a paradox. The day seemed unstructured, although there was a clear structure in place which the children almost seemed subconsciously aware of. This was particularly the case at snack time, when different children had their snacks at different times without even a murmur. Looking back to my own childhood, this could have kicked off a near riot in the McLaughlin household, so it was very interesting to see the comfort that the children felt in their learning environment. Despite Ms Kerry having said that it was a “crazy busy” day, nothing seemed hurried or frantic.

Taking photographs around the school is part of my job as Communications Manager so I was familiar with the next part of the PKK Day, Music Presentation, as I’d been asked to photograph it on two occasions. It was very nice (as ever!) to see the irrepressible Ms. Jarka in full flow, happily exhorting the children to “sing their name” and lead the song about the naughty pussy cat who “has butter on his whiskers” which is not a phrase I hear too often on a regular Tuesday morning working in the Advancement Office. It was a pleasant change to personally take part properly in the singalong as part of the class and see such a great turnout of parents (and grandparents!) fully engaged in the school day of the students.

The next part of the day was probably the part that took me most by surprise, not in that students were focused as such, I had expected that. What surprised me was that there was a quiet, almost tranquil atmosphere in the room. I had, maybe from my own experiences at home with my own kids, expected a room full of four year olds to be slightly more boisterous. Instead, there was a surprising tranquility – this was evident in the attitude of the students and was encouraged by the classical music softly playing in the background.

Children again were not pointed in any direction during this session but instead followed their natural curiosity to the activities which interested them under the supervision of Ms. Kerry and Miss Elsy. These included continuing on the woodwork projects the students had been recently working on with visiting artist Jan Nováček and working with new and improved red modelling clay. This certainly brought my ‘original’ shadow partner, Amalia’s creativity to the fore. She confidently employed me as a holder of her woodwork creation until the glue set while she went about her business.

Lunch

After lunch the pace really dropped with rest time. To my surprise most of the students actually did rest! For the more energetic children I read a few books which was a warming experience for me as I actually revisited for the first time in a while the Julia Donaldson books that my own children and I took great pleasure in reading previously.

Another storytime followed – there was evidently a lot of time spent in Pre Kindergarten on cultivating a love of reading, and of storytelling and listening. The book of choice this time was The Terrible Plop by Ursula Dubosarsky. After the story it was time for the final outdoor play of the day and it was time for me to get back to my day job. I felt a glow of pride when Ms. Elsy told me at the end of the day that while I was by no means the first person to observe the class, I was nonetheless the first to be around for the entire day.

The Gruffalo with MJ and George

Ultimately, I found spending the day at pre-kindergarten very fulfilling, it was inspiring to see the dedication, patience, kindness and professionalism of teaching staff at close quarters. I learned a lot from the energy of the students and was interested at first hand to see what really switches them on in what is a nurturing, creative environment. It was important for me, who spends quite a lot of time on words and explaining our mission to see it being lived by staff and our younger students. Its an experience I’d like to repeat in other parts of the school in the near future.

Activities with Ms Elsy

A day in the life – Shadow a Student Challenge

As part of the international Shadow a Student Challenge, last year I blogged about my experience of shadowing a grade 9 student, Grace, throughout her day at the International School of Prague. In a very positive sense, I got much more than I bargained for.

This time it was Maria in grade 4 whom I had the pleasure of shadowing throughout her day of learning at ISP. I can truly say that while I was exhausted at the end of our day, I was also energized by what I observed and learned with Maria and all of her grade 4 classmates.

Maria – Grade 4

From the moment I entered Mr. Ryan Malone’s classroom, I was struck by how students were engaged and had considerable choice in how they were learning. At the same time it was clear that the structure and purpose of what students were learning was clear and well structured. What follows is a short version of my day of shadowing Maria primarily told through pictures and video:

The morning began with students rotating through the classroom reading through poems they may wish to learn and present. There was a palpable sense of focus as the students absorbed different styles of poetry.

Picking a poem

After that it was off to music class with Mr. Allen. The class was filled with a variety of engaging musical activities from vocal warm ups, to singing Solfègeto composing our own rhythms, to performing on Orff instruments. Mr. Allen’s music class was active, fun and focused.

Visiting Mr. Allens music class

After returning to class we were off to PE with Mr. Choudhury. First we warmed up with some dodge ball. Here I must mention that the students were intent on hitting me with a ball but then politely handed me another ball so I could join in again, only to be “attacked” once again. It was fun! Then we got into an introduction to badminton by watching some footage of professional players. After some conversation about our observations, it was time to try it out for ourselves.

Once back in Mr. Malone’s class, students led by fellow student David, took turns nominating people, parents or friends, who had something positive and special. For example:

Sam said. “I nominate my dad for playing the Math game with me yesterday.” and then David asked the class to give “3 snaps for Sam’s dad.” What a great way for these young students to think about and recognize how others help or support them.

Next the class smoothly segued into math learning, beginning with some sequential math problems.

Then the class tackled a conceptual problem, The Box Factory.

After working individually, students took turns describing how they would represent a crate of oranges with numbers.

Later the class continued its study of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To introduce this part of the unit Mr. Malone had announced to the students that they were going to watch a video about “Fuzzy Bunny’s Magical Trip to the Human Rights Forrest,” but they were in for a surprise. As the class gathered around the screen, they were startled to see an ominous “hack” of the internet by an interplanetary alien, STHGIR (“rights” spelled backward) who posed a challenge to the students. After the startling appearance of STHGIR, Mr. Malone explained that there wasn’t a real alien but that his challenge was for students to see if they could come to agreement on what they believed were the five most important human rights.

Students first reviewed and rated the rights individually and then worked in pairs and then groups to see if they could reach consensus on five rights. This was an excellent way to get the students to better understand all the rights in the declaration through considered debate and discussion.

STHGIR’s ATTACK

 

Working to reach consensus

Even though it was a bit cold outside, it was now time to go outside in search of “metaphors.” Once outside we were asked to find an object which students could describe from a variety of perspectives and to write descriptions of each in the appropriate “room,” such as the Sound Room or the Feelings Room. This was a wonderful way to allow students to discover the concept of metaphor without simply telling them what it was.

Looking for Metaphors

I am a rock?

Learning about metaphors

Once back in class, students excitedly presented their own creations as part of the Class Economy unit. Here they had a chance to “sell” and “buy” items they created to one another. The activity required creativity, thinking about marketing and entrepreneurship, and through the process the students learned about commerce.

So that was our day in a nutshell. What is hard to convey is how much fun it was to learn in this dynamic and focused environment, where the learning of each student was nurtured and supported and where the students could safely take risks and learn from their trials and errors.

Agenda for our day with Mr. Malone

Oh, I forgot to mention, recess and lunch. They were fun too!

Thanks to Mr. Malone, Maria and grade 4 for an amazing day! I learned a lot!

With Mr. Malone and Grade 4

Thanks Maria!

Maria and me

Youth is NOT wasted on the young

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 12.56.22

Each year at this time, schools around the world celebrate their graduates achievements and wish them success as they venture out into the world. Last week’s blog highlighted the words of one of our graduate speakers and this week I leave you with my words to the graduates and their families, entitled “Youth is NOT Wasted on the Young.”

Speaking at ISP Graduation June 2016, Zofin Palace

Speaking at ISP Graduation May 2016, Zofin Palace

It is an honor for me to welcome you to the graduation ceremony for the class of 2016! We are all very proud of the young women and men sitting on this stage before us. They have worked hard to become ISP graduates and we are all proud of their achievements.

I have no doubt that the past few months have been a bit of a blur for our seniors. They’ve been in a sort of limbo, between finishing up their high school careers, and simultaneously getting ready for the next chapter in their lives. While a new life approaches each of you, and we hope we have prepared you well for your future, it’s fair to say that each of you will be venturing out into unknown territory.

Whether you are taking a gap year or immediately starting university, whether you’ll be living at home or in another country; even if you are not quite sure what you will be doing next year, you are heading into a new way of being. Whatever you will be doing or wherever you go next, your lives will fundamentally change because you are no longer children. You are young adult women and men who must take greater responsibility for yourselves, actually in a legal sense, you will take full responsibility for your actions. Isn’t it wonderful?… Isn’t it horrifying? Whatever you’re feeling about the future, giddy excitement or dread, it’s in your hands, more than it has ever been before. I think it’s fair to say that those of us who have been around a lot longer than you have, will enjoy living vicariously through your adventures and experiences. This is especially true of your parents, who will look on proudly and nervously as you venture out!

There’s an old saying, Youth is wasted on the young. It means that young people encounter all sorts of new situations and predicaments in life without the benefit of having learned life’s lessons. But that’s part of the fun and excitement isn’t it? Encountering new situations and attaining wisdom through your good judgement as well as your mis-steps?

What would it be like, I wonder, if somehow young people your age could begin life having already attained all the wisdom experience brings; with vivid memories of victories and defeats, successes and failures; with all the important lessons somehow already learned? Could the freshness and uniqueness of every new experience, every catchy song or captivating landscape, every compelling book or great love, possibly shake your soul the same way as it will do, when you encounter life’s twists and turns for the very first time? I think not. In order for you to absorb life and hopefully gain some wisdom along the way, you must take the time to live life, and that will take you a lifetime!

I actually looked into the origins of the phrase “Youth is wasted on the young”. In a slightly different form, it is attributed to the great Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and all around witty person George Bernard Shaw. Someone asked Shaw what, in his opinion, is the most wonderful thing in this world. “Youth,” he replied, “ Youth is the most wonderful thing in this world—and what a pity that it has to be wasted on children!”

We all get what he means, but I would argue that youth is a wonderful thing mainly because it involves the wonder and the delight of first times. Discovering a new culture or delighting in a great novel, or tasting a new cuisine for the very first time, can only be a surprise to the inexperienced or uninitiated. Making mistakes that you yourself have to own and learn from, are also defining moments which make us who we are.

In that sense, youth is not wasted on the young, any more than old age is wasted on the aged. In either case, life is wasted only if it is not lived with purpose. As Shaw himself said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” And that’s the whole point of the journey each of us makes in life, young or old. As you develop and grow, each of you, dear seniors, will be creating who you are. Your life is in your hands and not anyone else’s. What you do and what you become is of your making.

So on this special day, I ask our graduates, to take this unique and precious time in your lives to explore your world and yourselves. Learn from your mistakes and delight in all that you have not yet experienced. See your life from this time on as an opportunity to create who you are. How exciting!

Where is my home?

gradZofin Palace

As is the tradition in countless schools and universities around the world, ISP recently convened its graduation ceremony for the class of 2016. We are fortunate indeed to have the opportunity to honor and celebrate with our graduates and their families in one of the most beautiful cities in the world Prague, in one its splendid landmark buildings, Zofin Palace.

Each year students, teachers and administrators have an opportunity to share our thoughts about the graduates and their futures. While there were many eloquent speeches to choose from, below I reprint Isabella Wilkinson’s address, which I will call, “Where is my home?”

Bella, speaks to the anticipation of our graduate’s bright futures and to the questions many are asking. Enjoy!

Kde domuv muj? Where is my home? – Isabella Wilkinson

Isabella Wilkinson speaking for her fellow graduates

Isabella Wilkinson speaking for her fellow graduates

Question everything. Remain curious. Strive to understand what you know, and what you don’t, and why. Perhaps these are the greatest and most profound lessons ISP has taught us over the past few years, as its students: to keep our eyes wide open to the changing world around us; to always have the curiosity to ask questions and to retain the energy to pursue their answers no matter what.

Today, the Class of 2016 stands on the edge of the rest of their lives, ready to go off into the world to find answers to the unanswered, to question the unquestionable. Seated before you today are the world’s future leaders, engineers, writers, doctors, artists, politicians, all of whom will strive to have unprecedented and unimaginable impact on the world around them. Each of us is prepared to go off into the world with open and questioning minds, prepared to ask our own questions and prepared to seek our own answers.

However, amidst the uniqueness of our graduating class as individuals, there is a single unanswered question that I believe truly defines us as a group and brings us all together: a question that should be recognized today as we are poised to step bravely into the future. To be honest, it’s one of the hardest questions we’ve faced yet…and this is said after taking this year’s IB exams! Whether it appears on a university application form, in an interview or even just in casual conversation, this is a question many of us will never be able to answer in just one word:

“So, where is home?” Or: “So, where are you from?”

ISP has given us the confidence to question everything. That’s how we know our identity can’t be defined just by the nationality and birthplace on our passports, or by the places our family lives, or by the languages we speak. Knowing who we are can be so much more complicated than that. Or, it was, until very recently.

As said earlier, the class seated before you today is standing before the rest of their lives. It’s inevitable: within the next few months, the Class of 2016 will have dispersed themselves all over the globe, to study, to work, to pursue new adventures, to meet new people, to grow and to learn, to ask questions and seek answers. Change is on the horizon. But before you take a leap of faith, you look down to see where your feet are. And on the edge of this great unknown, we can’t help but look down to see where we’re standing. It’s really true that you only know and appreciate what you have and what you’re a part of when it’s time to let it go, and move on.

So, today, as we graduate, we can ask the previously unanswerable question once again, a final time for now. “So. Where is home?” Now, when asked “where’s home?” we can think of days spent. We remember the morning breaks spent laughing about the weekend’s events in the cafeteria with our best friends, the lunchtimes spent cramming for tests together on the floor of the senior lounge, the evenings spent endlessly exploring the beautiful city we’re so lucky to be a part of with people we’re so lucky to have in our lives.

Now, when asked “where’s home?” we can think of people. We remember the ISP family; the teachers that have helped us become the people we are today with patience and encouragement, who have believed in us and inspired us beyond words; the families that have given us the love, support and motivation we’ve needed to achieve our goals; the friends that have made us cry with laughter along the way, with whom we’ve made unforgettable memories with. We remember the post-graduates who sat where we are seated today and the way they’ve become part of an enduring and special network that neither time nor distance will end.

Now, when asked “where’s home?” we can think of feelings. We remember the nervous excitement as we walked up the back stairs to the freshmen hallway for the first time; the exhilaration of moving up a grade; the growing unease about our final exams; and now, the nervous excitement as we move upwards once again.

Now, when asked “where’s home?” we can think of moments. We remember the moments of discovery, of realisation, of learning and of growth; we remember the moment we realised a long-awaited answer to a long-term question. We remember the moments that have made us who we are as people.

This is one of them. Over the past few months, as we have been prepared to let go of ISP, a lot of things have been labeled as their ‘last’: the last IB class, the last IB exam, the last cafeteria lunch with friends, the last goodbye to the senior lounge, and the last time walking through the halls of ISP as a student.

Well, as for last words, there isn’t much left to say but this: In the words of the Czech national anthem – words that have no doubt grown close to our hearts in the past few years:

Kde domuv muj? Translation: where is my home?

Now, all there is left to say is thank you. Thank you, ISP, for helping us answer that question. Thank you, ISP, for being a home.

 

 

History on our doorstep

Syrian refugees on Prague-Berlin train-Radio Praha

It’s all over the news. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing their homelands in order to survive and risking their lives to do so. While thousands are arriving in Europe every day, they represent a tiny fraction of the refugee population, for example there are about one million Syrian refugees just in Lebanon.

Here are some of some “facts on the ground.” (Europe’s Refugee Crisis by the Numbers-Yahoo News)

  • Number of displaced people internally after Syrian conflict: More than 6 million
  • Registered refugees in other countries after Syrian conflict: More than 4 million
  • Mediterranean Sea crossings by refugees and migrants so far this year: 300,000
  • Mediterranean Sea crossings by refugees and migrants for all of 2014: 219,000
  • Expected asylum seekers in Germany this year: 800,000

The following clip portrays a moment in this tragic story. Thousands of refugees are streaming into Hungary with no provisions or food; children are lying in the street with nowhere to sleep. The words they speak and signs they carry are blunt: “My family is waiting for me” — “I am human, what about me?” We see compassionate local residents and people from other countries bringing much-needed supplies. As one concerned citizen puts it “all of these people who are fleeing from war and terror, they have a right for a safe home. I think it’s our duty to help them find a safe place.” Another says, “I was shocked when we got here. The sadness of the situation really got to me. All my prejudices disappeared. It is also so sad to see families here who had work and decent lives back home.”

At one crucial moment in the clip, an argument breaks out between some locals. In reaction to a Syrian boy waving a Hungarian flag, someone says, “People from other countries shouldn’t be waving the Hungarian flag.” Another responds, “Why shouldn’t it belong in their hands? I’m Hungarian and I allow it.” Another joins the argument saying, “Back home they are being bombed.” The response? “Take them back to your house then.” The reply?, “I will take them. I live here, I don’t like this, this is not a good thing. This isn’t about politics, this is about human beings who I see changing their kids’ nappies on the streets. These are people and we need to help them. I don’t care whether they should or shouldn’t have come here. I just can’t stand by and watch them suffer.”

Thousands of refugees, including hundreds of children, wait in limbo at Budapest Keleti train station on Thursday night. The Guardian

Thousands of refugees, including hundreds of children, wait in limbo at Budapest Keleti train station on Thursday night. The Guardian

While this is a tragedy on a global scale, it is not taking place in some far off place. This sad story is happening right on our doorstep. For international schools here in Europe, history is unfolding before our eyes and there are indeed many historical and life lessons to learn and many questions to ask.

What can international schools do?  First and foremost we can only act responsibly by understanding and educating ourselves and our community. Then, identify ways to truly support those in need, especially children, in as meaningful a way as possible. While financial contributions are helpful, making real connections, not only helps others but allows all of us to learn and grow as human beings. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Syrian refugee camp in Jordan - NY Post

Syrian refugee camp 2013 – NY Post

The Joy of Learning

 

Each year at the International School of Prague, we hold a “Middle School Leavers Ceremony” to recognize this important point in the lives of students moving from middle school to high school. My message to students this year was for them to hold on to the joy of learning for life.

For the past one, two or three years, each of you have literally been in the middle. Too old for elementary school and too young for high school. Neither here nor there, you might say. In fact, middle school has been a crucial and formative time in your lives and we’re here to celebrate all that you have learned and achieved so far.

Middle school is a rite of passage. It is a time of change and development, mentally, physically and emotionally. It is a time when students begin to see beyond themselves and start to form ideas about who they want to become. During your time in middle school we hope you have had the opportunity to learn more about yourself as a person and as a learner. Of course, this journey of self exploration and discovery never ends.

My message to all of our grade 8 students is that life as you have known it does not suddenly end when moving to HS. Yes, it’s an important next step in your lives and it’s a recognition that you are ready to take on new challenges and become more independent.

I know that many of you are nervous about what high school will be like. You’ve heard that it’s a lot of work, that it’s “really hard” or that it won’t be much fun. I’m hear to tell you that while there will be new challenges, you don’t have to lose the wonder and joy of learning. Learning, by its nature is a joyful process. I want to encourage you to hold on to that wonder, and joy, and fun in learning new things, and learning about yourself. This is how I hope you approach the next important phase in your life.

I also want to encourage you to be a learner all the time, not only in school, but perhaps more importantly outside of school. There’s a famous quote often attributed to Mark Twain, which goes like this, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” While some may find this to be a criticism of how school can limit learning, I take it to mean that school is in fact a starting point, not an end point for learning. As the great progressive educator John Dewey said: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

In this day and age, the best schools, like ISP, are there to guide you through your development and self exploration, to open up new vistas; to help you find your strengths and to learn how to learn throughout your lives.

So as you go off to your summer vacations, have fun, don’t worry about next year, but do keep learning. And return to ISP ready to embrace the next exciting chapter in your lives and continue to find the joy in learning.

Once again, congratulations to the grade 8 class of 2015!