As I prepared for this evening, I thought a lot about the notion of a school closing, and the implicit message that things stop- or shut down- after this event. As I hope you can imagine, with many people working to ensure that SCS continues to flourish and shine as one of our country’s leading girls’ schools, there is no real closing. The same can be said for our Graduates. Despite graduating and finishing their time at SCS, our girls are facing the next stage of their journey through life. Rather than celebrating an ending, I see this evening as a celebration of transitions for all girls, parents, and staff.
As a School, we have a significant responsibility to ensure that our girls develop into outstanding women- women who reflect intellectual curiosity, who demonstrate courage in all that they do, and who ensure they are compassionate both to others and to themselves. In taking on this responsibility, we also recognize that the journey is never really over. Accordingly, we must ensure that our impact lasts beyond closings.
Our journeys contribute to who we are and to who we become. Our School’s belief that the best path is rarely a straight line reflects the knowledge that these journeys are seldom easy- nor should they be. However, this notion can create a tension. We know our families select St. Clement’s because they seek an academic experience that ensures excellence and rigour. We also know that you wish to see your girls successfully complete their time at St. Clement’s. Finally, we know that our girls expect much of themselves.
But what does success really mean?
For some, it may mean a school experience with no issues, an acceptance to a particular program, or an acceptance to a particular school. For all of us, it must also mean that our girls, at various stages and ultimately at graduation, leave the School equipped for turns in the road and various stops along the way. There is no doubt that one step in our girls’ journeys is a post-secondary experience; however, our responsibility is to prepare our girls for the long haul.
St. Clement’s is, and always will be, a place where academics and learning will challenge and ultimately stretch our girls. We are cognizant that one of the ways in which we celebrate success at our school is by recognition of academic excellence; however, we also believe there is an equally important notion of success that we wish for our girls, and that is their well-being and resilience. It is not the smooth ride that contributes to well-being, but a varied path, well-supported: such that our girls ultimately grasp that the bumps along their road are not indicators of who they are, but rather something from which they can move forward.
As families and School, one of our most important roles in supporting our girls’ journeys from Grade 1 to Grade 12 is to ensure that they learn how to embrace complex and disappointing situations and do so with the knowledge that these are not reflections on their ability, their intellect, or their personalities, but rather ultimate contributors to who they will be. It is this ability, done with increased independence along the way, that will foster strength, resilience, courage and ultimately confidence.
Girls, we know that you have high expectations for yourselves, and this is important. However, we also know that there are times when you are- or will be-disappointed. It is important to know that what we ultimately deem success is your ability to embrace the journey through these experiences and, all the while, know that these moments will pass, you will grow, and will become stronger and wiser. While, as a School, we do and will continue to recognize achievements, too often we see you measure the person you are on results- a lower mark, a bad game, a challenging conflict. Who you are is not, nor will it ever be, solely a result of accolades and prizes, nor of disappointments or stumbles. How you work through complexities is far more important.
Keeping in mind that your journeys are fundamental to your growth and are not finished at the Closing, we have confidence that despite the turns in the road, the moments of struggle and the disappointments, you will remain the same wonderful young women we know and love. Yes, there are ups and downs with the learning process; yes, there are games, meets and medals on the line, and yes, there are marks and acceptance averages; however, these are not reflections of you but, rather part of your journey through life.
Remember as you wander along your varied paths to leverage your intellectual curiosity, your courage and your compassion for others and yourself, knowing that it will guide you far beyond closings.