Good evening and welcome. It is my great honour and pleasure to welcome all of you to our 116th Annual St. Clement’s School Closing.
When I reflect upon the past year I am reminded of the wise messages to our community from our youngest students through our Junior School classes leading our assemblies: messages about the writing process, spring and new growth, apologies, the importance of positivity, and first impressions and not judging a book by its cover. Parents – rest assured that your daughters young and old are not only growing academically, they are learning important values and messages about life.
Success is a focus about which I have spoken in the past. While there are specific academic achievements that denote success, I also believe that personal growth, learning, and broadened life experience reflect success. This growth does not stop at a particular age, and we are certain to learn much from each person within our community.
Our grads, from very early on in their Grade 12 year are faced with the knowledge that they will have a big decision to make regarding their futures. They, alongside counsellors, teachers and family, research and consider a variety of options for their post secondary experiences. Decisions about what steps to take and what questions to ask are our girls’ focus with an ultimate result- initially- seeming to be far off in the distance.
Our role at St. Clement’s is to support and guide our girls as they work through these processes. While there are no guarantees in life or, indeed, in the university admission process, we are working to facilitate good choices and ultimate success.
One recent very personal experience has reminded me of the ups and downs that come with big decisions and resulting consequences- and what can be learned from both.
This past August, I began the screening process to become a kidney donor for a close friend’s brother. In December, I learned that the recipient and I were a suitable match and I was able to determine the date of the surgery. I chose the week before March Break as I felt it would allow me three solid weeks to recover from what my research had indicated was a less-invasive laparoscopic procedure. Beyond speaking with our Chair and past Chair of the Board, and informing our Administrative Team, I chose not to let those beyond my close family and friends know, as I am not comfortable with a lot of attention, and despite the time spent researching, I was nervous about the procedure.
The great news is that the surgery went very well, and the recipient is doing beautifully. The reality at the time was, however, that no matter how much research I had done, how many times the medical professionals had told me that the healthy donor has a harder time with recovery, and how much I had been walked through the surgical procedure, my recovery experience was challenging, unsettling and unexpected. I was educated on my choice, I was confident that because I was so healthy, the recovery would be easy and that I would be back to work after March Break. Not so. Being in the midst of something, with no choice to turn back can cause great worry. Ultimately, however, it affords much learning.
This life experience reminded me of the proverbial ride that our graduates- and their parents- are on in their last year at St. Clement’s.
Despite all the intellectual work we do, the time making decisions, the guidance we seek, and words we hear or choose not to hear, we cannot control – to the extent that we might wish- the outcomes in our lives. And once we have an outcome, there are, in most cases, no opportunities to go back. This is all well and good when the outcome is as we expected; however, when the unexpected happens, it can be disappointing and certainly unsettling.
Despite my challenging ride to what is now a full recovery, I have learned much and I am a better person for it.
I was reminded that we must guide our girls and ourselves to work hard when going through decisions, not just to listen, but to hear advice and information being provided. While we cannot imagine what it is like to find ourselves dealing with the unexpected, we must certainly consider it in making decisions. It is human nature to hear what we want to hear, and while optimism is important, realistic consideration is equally important.
I was reminded that amid disappointing news or unexpected outcomes, we must work to let go of control and ask for help. While our desire– as a result of the many messages we give and receive- is to be strong, our success depends on allowing others to help. There is tremendous strength in seeking support. In my case, upon realizing that I was not going to be able to return to work for another week, I chose to let our SCS staff know about the nature of my surgery. I was- and continue to be- overwhelmed by their thoughtfulness, support and understanding.
I was reminded that beyond just asking for help, we must not be afraid to articulate our worries to others. Granted, it is important for us all to build our capacity to work through things independently; however, when others understand how we are feeling, they are better able to help us.
I was reminded that we must work hard to ensure we consider what it might be like to walk in the shoes of others. Empathy is powerful and can positively inform our decisions and resulting actions.
And, as difficult as this is to do during uncertain times, I was reminded (admittedly with some hindsight) to trust the journey. With time, care and healing, things do get better.
Beyond the ongoing learning I am blessed to acquire everyday from our girls and our amazing staff, I have been able acquire so much more this year through my own experience.
As we celebrate each student within our community, and wish all the best to those who graduate and are leaving SCS, I wish for everyone the capacity to accept and then embrace the unexpected; for it will, to be sure, bring growth and learning.