Thursday, June 24, 2010

Congratulations Class of 2010!

You worked hard to get to this day. You are survivors, having not only survived middle and high schools that were big, impersonal, and bureaucratic, but also having survived Nora, which is no easy task. There is often a misconception that being in a small school like Nora is easy, because the teachers know you, and work with you, and give you lots of chances, and all of that is true. But equally true is that going to a small school is hard, because the teachers know you, and work with you, and give you lots of chances. There’s nowhere to hide if you haven’t done the reading, your math homework always gets checked, and when it’s your turn to make a presentation there’s no one to hand it off to. Your parents hear if you missed the trip to the Corcoran and they know when you’re not doing your Pre-Calculus homework. Lorraine notices when you show up late to Physics and Patrick notices when you didn’t turn in your Chemistry lab. It’s tough to stand up to that amount of scrutiny, but you have. You survived not only the classrooms, but also the whitewater rafting of your sophomore year, the high ropes and goal setting of your junior retreat, and writing recommendations and sharing your life stories on the senior retreat. You finished your senior community service (late though it may have been for some of you) and you learned to balance two of the most precious gifts of adulthood: freedom and responsibility. The freedom part is easy, every teenager gets that. The responsibility part is a lot harder. Many adults have yet to figure it out, as witnessed by the various crises on Wall Street and in the Gulf of Mexico. Learning when to have fun and when to work, when to sleep in and when to get up, finding where the boundaries are, and which ones it was safe to cross, these are things that your parents and teachers have to juggle every day. You managed, if imperfectly, the four lessons with which we start every school year.
These same lessons will stand you in good stead as you move forward into your adult lives: Show Up On Time. Do Your Work. Care For Your Health. Treat People Respectfully. These fourteen words are perhaps the most important lesson you take from Nora, because you have to keep living them the rest of your life if you wish to be successful.
Business writer Seth Godin posits that “small is the new big,” and as graduates of one of the smallest schools in the country, you should understand that it’s a big accomplishment to graduate from a small school. While it’s a small accomplishment to find a clique of people you get along with in a big school, it’s a big accomplishment to get along, intimately, with people who annoy you and get on your nerves in a small school. It’s a small accomplishment to hide in the back of a big classroom and avoid the teacher’s radar and do the minimum necessary to get by, but it’s a big accomplishment to push through your resistance and actually do the work. You know that in Chris’s small classroom you’d better have done the reading so you can participate in the discussion. Taking this a bit further, keep in mind that while we all have our daily frustrations, by doing the small kindnesses to others we can, collectively, make a big difference in the world.
Good luck Class of 2010! Your small school made a big difference for you, and in any number of small ways you have made a big difference in your peers and teachers. Now take this out to the world!

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