Sunday, May 8, 2011

NJHS Induction Speech

I am honored to be here celebrating your success tonight.  As a former faculty sponsor of NJHS, I know how difficult it is to be selected for membership in this prestigious organization.  Tonight’s ceremony is evidence of your success.  Your name in this program is evidence of your hard work.  I say “evidence” of your success because YOU are a success long before you receive the recognition for it.

Every day you show up for school ready to learn, every day you faithfully complete your homework; every day you volunteer for community service, every day you take on additional responsibilities to strengthen your leadership skills, every day you see a need and use what you’ve been given to help meet that need...YOU ARE A SUCCESS!  Just because others don’t recognize your success every day, doesn’t diminish the significance of what you’re accomplishing on your way.  Tonight is your night of recognition.  Your parents, friends, and family members are here to celebrate your faithfulness to the process of succeeding.  I’d like to encourage you tonight to continue that process. 

For the past two years, I’ve been “on leave” from West Valley Middle School and it sure feels great to be back!  I’ve been on a bit of an adventure and I’d briefly like to share with you one of the reasons why I left and something I’ve learned from some pretty amazing 4th graders!

Five years ago, I was give  a huge dream to change the world.  You see, I was teaching 8th grade here at WVMS, but ten years ago, I taught third grade at A.L. Lotts, so I had some of the same kids in my 8th grade class that I’d as 3rd graders five years earlier.  You may be able to relate to this...Do you remember how excited you were to come to school when you were in elementary school?  Do you remember going to Target or Walmart when the new school supply list came out to pick out your stuff?  Do you remember how you could hardly sleep some nights because you couldn’t wait to get to school to participate in some special activity your class had planned?  Remember Fun Day and recess?  Ah yes, the good ol’ days, right?  I used to get my third graders so pumped up about school that they’d be foaming at the mouth by the time they got off the school bus!  Those were the good ol’ days for me too.  

When I started teaching 8th grade and got reacquainted with my former students, I couldn’t believe how much they’d changed.  No longer did they look forward to school with eager anticipation.  Now, it seemed like they just endured it.  Most were successful students like you all, but they had lost their passion for learning.  I tried to figure out why.

Part of the reason for their apathy was due to the fact that many of their teachers were too tired and burned out to bring passion to their classrooms.  Many teachers loved their subject but didn’t much care for their “subjects.”  Some teachers had just lost sight of the reason they chose education as their profession.  I wanted to change that and remind them that the only thing that REALLY matters in their classrooms is their students.  As a result, I started an organization committed to the power of influence that teachers have in the lives of their students.  Now over 1600 teachers come to an event at the Tennessee Theatre to be “inspired” to use their position to positively impact the lives of their students. 

A few years ago, a radio talkshow host was speaking at this event and he put up a picture of a swimming pool on the big screen and he asked the 1700 teachers in the audience, “How do you teach a child to swim?  What’s the one thing you HAVE to do in order to teach someone to swim?” ...Get in there with them!

Well, that got me thinking...What would happen if I “got in there with” the most challenging students in our city?  What would happen if I left this amazing school with incredible kids and supportive parents and went to a place where I could truly make a difference?  Hallerin’s swimming pool speech got me dreaming about not doing what is comfortable, but doing what is right...

But I’m like you...I DO my homework, so I met with the Director of Knox County’s Urban Schools and she shared a story with me that convinced me to “jump into that pool of uncertainty” and pray that water would be in it.  (Share story)

After that, she had me hook, line, and sinker!  EVERY student matters.  EVERY person matters.  Honor Society Inductees, YOU MATTER, and so, as recognized leaders in your school, my challenge to you is to leave this gymnasium tonight committed to the goal of ensuring that everyone in your circle of influence is positively impacted by knowing YOU!  I’d like to close by sharing a story about how powerful our actions can be in the lives of others.

Frog Lesson

A group of frogs was traveling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit.  All the other frogs gathered around the pit.

When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the unfortunate frogs they would never get out.

The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit.

The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as

Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and simply gave up.  He fell down and died.

The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could.

Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and
suffering and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out.

When he got out, the other frogs asked him, "Why did you continue jumping? Didn't you hear us?" The frog explained to them that he was deaf.  He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.

Two lessons:

1. There is power of life and death in the tongue.  An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day.

2. A destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them.  Be careful of what you say.  Speak life to those who cross your path.

Special is the individual who will take the time to encourage another.  May your words be a blessing to someone today.

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