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Who Do I Want to Be? - Graduation Speech

The Children’s School

Ms. Christina Martin, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Commencement Speech – 2022


Families, friends, teachers, students, and most importantly graduates of the Class of 2022–

We made it!!

Through two plus years of COVID, through masks and drool tests and remote events and everything else, you still managed to have a great TCS experience and to be a phenomenal 8th grade class.

I’m thrilled to be here at your graduation ceremony, celebrating all your achievements as you complete your elementary education and move on to high school.

Class of 2022, I have a question for you: "What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is something people love to ask young people– “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And what they mean by that is “What do you want to do when you grow up?” and more specifically "What job do you want to have?"

You get a version of this question a lot right now, I’m sure –”where are you going to high school?”

For sure these are important questions–what school will you go to, what subjects will you study, what job or career will you pursue. These are major life decisions. I get it.

But I think the question has a subtle and far more important meaning hidden inside. Think about it: “What do you want to be?” Or maybe “Who do you want to be?”

"Who do you want to be" is the most important, the most defining question of your life.

Especially because many life events are not completely in your hands. Yes, you could aspire to become a doctor or a teacher or a musician. Yes, you could plan to one day raise children with a committed partner. Yes, you may want to live in a certain city or state or country. But these things–the things you will be able to do–are only partially in your control.

On the other hand, who you’re going to be is 100% up to you. You can decide, indeed you have already begun deciding, what kind of person you want to be and what qualities you want to nurture and grow and commit to for yourself.

And those qualities–who you are going to be–are in your control regardless of the circumstances or events of your life. So when life events don’t turn out as expected or don’t follow your carefully made plans, as life events have a way of doing, you are still in control of how you respond, what you prioritize, and who you are.

The reflective skills needed to guide your own growth in this way are something we practice regularly at TCS. We ask students to set goals for the year–what do you want to learn or get better at or try this year? And then we ask you to reflect on those goals–how are you doing? What is getting in your way? What do you need from your parents/guardians, your teachers, your peers in order to reach these goals?

That’s one way you practice answering the question “Who do I want to be?”

And these skills are also on display when you solve conflicts or problems at TCS. Talking with another person whose words or actions have upset you–telling them “I didn’t like it when . . . “ listening to their response, their explanation, their apology, hearing about something you may have done or said that upset them, and then agreeing to move forward and change how you relate to each other.

This is another way you practice answering the question “Who do I want to be?”

And your Capstone projects– your amazing Capstone projects–your 44-page papers, and your fundraising events, and your podcasts and videos and original art and models and stories and guides–pursuing a topic of interest to you, and figuring where to get information and how to shape that information into something meaningful for yourself and for others.

That’s another way you have practiced answering the question “Who do I want to be?”

So class of 2022, I don’t have any idea what you will do when you grow up–probably a whole host of interesting and unexpected and extraordinary and also mundane and ordinary things–all the many different things that are part of the human experience. I really don’t know what you will do, but I have every confidence in who you will choose to be.

And that’s because I’ve been watching you over many years, some of you since Kindergarten. I see you every day deciding who you want to be. I see you choosing to be friendly and kind, choosing to be curious and interested in the world around you, choosing to work hard and try something you’re not sure you’ll be good at. I see you choosing to stand up for what you believe in and choosing to stand up for others who are not being treated well. I see you choosing to include each other, choosing to collaborate and work closely with each other, choosing to love your families, choosing to be a good friend and a good community member.

And because I’ve seen so much evidence, even at your young age, of who you already are, I feel very confident about who you’ll be when you leave The Children’s School and venture out into the world.

Class of 2022, we are tremendously proud of you! Please keep TCS in your heart as we will keep you in our hearts. We can’t wait to see both what you will do and who you will be. We know it’s going to be amazing.

Thank you.


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