Good afternoon and welcome to our End of Year Awards Assembly in St. Clement’s School’s 119th year.
Each year, at Closing, I relish the opportunity to look out to see and speak to our entire School community. It is a time in which to address everyone and to celebrate our girls’ accomplishments together. While our gathering place may not be Roy Thomson Hall, and the platform may not be a stage, I am thrilled we are together recognizing our girls’- and indeed the staff’s – accomplishments.
This assembly will celebrate our girls from Grades 1-12. Our Grads wish to graduate in person and we want to honour this. We look forward to gathering with the Grads and their families on August 12 if permitted and, if not, we will come together on December 22 to celebrate. We look forward to sharing more information as things unfold.
Our girls are at the heart of everything we do- and this afternoon we are here to celebrate them. However, I must first express my deep and heartfelt thanks to our staff who, in short order and with a commitment that means so much, turned quickly and beautifully to provide our girls with ongoing learning in response to this pandemic emergency. On behalf of our staff, I also wish to express our thanks to the SCS community for their support, feedback and most importantly, their compassion. This has, and will continue to be at points, uncharted territory; be assured that we are planning thoughtfully and with our girls’ learning and well-being at the centre. Your support and understanding continues to be appreciated. Finally, as always, I am very appreciative to our Board of Governors for their leadership and guidance and, wish in particular, to thank Brian Denega, our Chair of the Board. Brian is finishing his term in October, and I have deeply appreciated his support, his thoughtful perspectives and his leadership for the past almost four years and, particularly, several months.
When our community gathered after March Break for our first-ever e-ssembly, I shared a quotation from a book that has been providing me with perspective, comfort and courage. Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations was written by Richard Wagamese.
Wagamese writes, “Teachings come from everywhere when you open yourself to them. That’s the trick of it, really. Open yourself to everything, and everything opens itself to you.”
I felt the need to remind our girls and staff and myself that we should look at this emergency as an opportunity for learning. I know, as I reflect on the past three months, I have learned a lot and recognize that it can be challenging to open oneself to new or different things. I ask all of us to ensure that we take time to reflect on what things we can take away.
As I prepared for today’s remarks, I went back to Wagamese’s book to consider what other wisdom to share as we bid farewell to our 2019-2020 academic year.
Wagamese writes, “I no longer want to be resilient. I don’t want to simply bounce back from things that hurt me or cause me pain. Bouncing back means returning to where I stood before…now I reach for beyond every day, in every encounter, in every circumstance. I seek to go where I have never travelled. I wake with the vision of a purposeful day, filled with adventures and teachings. Then I take the first step and try to make it to Beyond.”
I know that we have all learned a tremendous amount over the course of the last three months and while some of it has been reasonably straight-forward, much has been challenging. Our resiliency has been tested and there are many that crave getting back to ‘normal’
While we have been challenged, and wish to bounce back, I believe that, as Wagamese suggests, we must see this as a time that will enable us to ‘go beyond.’
I have observed our girls as they quickly shifted gears, as they have adapted to new tools and environments, and how they waded through uncertainty. I have, of late, been meeting with many of them across the grades. As we meet and talk, I marvel at their reflections, at the wisdom they share with younger students and incoming leaders, and the sage advice they provide me for our planning. There is no doubt that for so many, they have moved beyond where they were.
While dealing with life during a pandemic has been difficult – and continues to pose challenges, I believe that our girls have – and will continue – to teach us about not just bouncing back, but the imperative of ‘going beyond.’
As we gather this afternoon and celebrate these outstanding girls and young women – and particularly salute our Class of 2020, let’s be thankful for their capacity to ‘go beyond’ to where they have never travelled. Let us all look to them as role models for us as we reach for the beyond, and prepare not just for the coming year but for our School’s future.
Congratulations girls. Thank you, everyone. Stay well, and keep washing your hands.