Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When the "Media" takes a Back Seat to the "Social"

Regular readers of this blog will know that I decided to "all in" with social media about six years ago. I joined Twitter, started a blog and a variety of other social media platforms.

To this day, I tell everyone whose interested, that the decision to "connect" through social media has been the one of the best decisions of my professional career. My connections have put me in touch with some of the smartest, kindest and interesting people on the planet. 

Recently, however, my use of social media has dropped off significantly. While I'm not necessarily proud of this, I think it has become a necessary reality.

When I joined social media nearly six years ago, I was firmly embedded in relationships within my school community. This year, as I transplant myself into a new school community,  the "media" has taken a back seat to the "social".

My new beginning has come with an important opportunity to establish community, trust and leadership through relationships. 
But here's the thing about establishing new relationships - in the process one can easily take for granted the relationships that are already established. In this regard I am guilty as charged. 

There is no question that in my zeal to establish new relationships in community, I have let my established relationships (with those nearest and dearest and those on social media) take a back seat. 

I realize that some would argue that I am perpetuating the Digital Dualism argument (or even fallacy)  

The fact remains, I have been less connected in social media spaces because I have been more connected in "non-media" social spaces. 

In a sense, I think this a necessary reality when joining a new school community.

Truth be told, like anything in life, I probably need to strike a better balance.  

Nonetheless, I am still figuring out...

Friday, January 2, 2015

New School: A Principal's Mid-Year/New Year Reflection.

It's been just over 4 months since I've started as principal at Vancouver College.

In short, I've been finding my way. Some days have felt more comfortable than others. I have had purposeful moments with feelings of having taken "two steps forward". I have also had feelings of frustration - feeling as if I've taken no steps forward.

Some days I've felt that I'm "figuring it out" and other days, not so much.

But here's the thing- I love what I'm doing. And I'm grateful for the wonderful people that surround me.  I feel that I have the best job in the world!

So as I enter the second half of the school year, here's a little reflection and update on how things are going:

Relationship Building & Earning Trust
Like I've said before, relationships are at the heart of leadership and teaching. I would say that my first four months have been intensely focused on relationship building. Either directly or indirectly, whether in a meeting, in my office, at a retreat, at a game, in the hallways; talking with a parent, a student, a teacher or colleague - it's been about building relationships.
Ultimately this continues to be a process gaining trust. After all, trust is the currency of leadership.

I'm also keenly aware that, while the process of "relationship building" has been personally uplifting and incredibly supportive, it can also be taxing and impact those with whom I already have relationships. While not unique to me, I continue to be mindful of the professional/personal time commitment balancing act in my life.

Humbled by the gratitude, enthusiasm and work ethic
Being intensely focused on relationships has allowed me to see great professionals do great things in service of students. School life is a buzz with learning activities both inside and outside the classroom. I have felt myself humbled by the level of dedication that the faculty and staff have exhibited. I have been equally humbled by the level of gratitude students and parents express in response to this service.

The students at the school are a constant source of inspiration. Whether I'm in the Kindergarten class watching the boys play and learn (I have to admit, when I'm having a bad day, a short visit to K is the perfect remedy) or simply chatting with a senior student about their studies or their future plans - it is extremely inspiring to be around this group of students.

As an example, check out this student organized event where 1200 staff and students came together to support men's health by wearing fake mustaches

And the parents....in short, their support of students, staff and the school is equally inspiring and humbling.

A few new things
1. We've allocated contracted time for staff collaboration and created a rotation of staff meetings, department meetings, and learning team meetings. In an effort establish a collaborative and sharing culture, our staff meetings begin with a different learning team sharing an exciting practice or discovery. We have already heard from teachers share discoveries around "play based learning", fostering a growth mindset for students and formative assessments across the curriculum.

Not surprisingly, this new collaborative structure has not been perfect and we have had to make some early adjustments in response to some feedback from teachers. With time, I suspect we will continue to make more adjustments.

2. We are continuing to see more technology integration throughout the school. Early in the school year we asked teachers what types of technology they need to further empower student learning.  In response to their input, we will be increasing WiFi accessibility to students and will be seeing more students bring their own devices to school.

We have also ordered a few class sets Chromebooks and Android tablets for use throughout the middle and senior school. We are also seeing more requests personalized mobile technology - whether through various cloud based tools or hardware (e.g. more Google Apps, personalized fitness monitoring devices)

Of note, I am not a fan of a scripted "technology policy or strategy" per say. While there is a need to be strategic and forward thinking, when it comes to technology decisions, those decisions need to be derived from an appetite for technology from students and teachers.

As a school leader, I need to create the conditions for this appetite. For a variety of reasons, the appetite for technology is increasing and as a school we need to respond.

3. Advisory Groups. This is the first year of our cross grade advisory groups (Gr. 10-12). I am seeing great potential for these groups moving forward.

4. We have also started a gentle review of the schools education program. Our first step has been to ask teachers what they are passionate about and how that might leverage into new courses/assignments  they may want to teach or develop at the school. Some of the early feedback is exciting!

Exciting Near Future

Mapping our Pedagogy
We will be embarking on a process of campus renewal here at Vancouver College. However, rather than just building "more of the same", within the coming months we will be developing a "vision for learning" to help shape the design of the school. One of our first steps is to develop a "pedagogical map" of where our teachers see themselves now and where they want to go into the future in terms of their pedagogy. The "map" will chart teacher attitudes regarding all aspects of pedagogy - curriculum, assessment, and instruction- from "traditional to transformed". This will provide critical information for our design team and for our admin team as we support our teachers professional learning needs into the future. (There will be more news to come on this)

Continuous Improvement
We will also be developing/adopting some sort of continuous school improvement framework. I have been thinking a lot about this lately. I'm a firm believer that if everything is a priority than nothing is a priority.

Here's the thing- I've seen lots of nicely packaged (principal created) school growth plans that virtually no one in the school knows about (other than the admin team).

The challenge will be to empower and engage all the teachers in the process, to make the process relevant to their day to day teaching and learning needs, embed our values and to make it visible to parents and students. Interestingly enough, I've been looking into some cloud based tools to assist with this process. Again, more news to come.

Teaching Lab
As we enter the hiring season we are thinking about implementing a "teaching lab" element to our hiring process. I've always wondered why we don't ask teachers to teach a lesson as part of their interview process. This year we are thinking of giving this a shot. I'm sure we will learn a lot about this process moving forward.

The first 140 days have been exhilarating, exciting and humbling. The next 140 should be equally so, as I continue to figure it out.....

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kids These Days...

I recently came across an article entitled: Teaching Generation Me.

The article, written for faculty members in medical schools, describes today's students as "Generation Me" and gives some practical advice for teaching today's cohort of medical students.  The article's abstract sums up the research results and the author's inference's this way:

Today’s students (Generation Me) score higher on assertiveness, self-liking, narcissistic traits, high expectations, and some measures of stress, anxiety and poor mental health, and lower on self-reliance. Most of these changes are linear; thus the year in which someone was born is more relevant than a broad generational label. Moreover, these findings represent average changes and exceptions certainly occur. 
These characteristics suggest that Generation Me would benefit from a more structured but also more interactive learning experience, and that the overconfidence of this group may need to be tempered. Faculty and staff should give very specific instructions and frequent feedback, and should explain the relevance of the material. Rules should be strictly followed to prevent entitled students from unfairly working the system. Generation Me students have high IQs, but little desire to read long texts. Instruction may need to be delivered in shorter segments and perhaps incorporate more material delivered in media such as videos and an interactive format. Given their heightened desire for leisure, today’s students may grow into professionals who demand lighter work schedules, thereby creating conflict within the profession.
In short, the author asserts that today's youth know what they want, are self centered, smart, place high expectations on themselves, have inflated egos, don't want to work as hard and, in return, are increasingly stressed out and rely on others (primary their parents) to help them out.

The article is an interesting read and makes some provocative assertions. For example, the author claims that students are more entitled and want higher grades for less output. As proof that students today are more entitled, she states:

Those in high school in the 2000s, who will be the medical students of the 2010s, feel entitled for another reason: they were given better grades for doing less work. A total of 20% fewer high school students did 15 or more hours of homework per week in 2006 than in 1976, and more did no homework at all. Yet the number of A-grade students has nearly doubled over the same period: whereas only 18% of students said they earned an A or A-average in 1976, 33% said they were A students in 2006, representing a whopping 83% increase in self-reported A-grade students. Generation Me has come to expect an easy ride, courtesy of their high school education.
I could spend the entire post reacting to this statement. Suffice to say, that pinning the "grade inflation" issue on hours of homework completed is a "red herring". The grade inflation issue has little to do with the number of minutes a learner spends doing homework and everything to with the assessment and evaluation practices of teachers. In fact, I would argue that the practice of linking effort to grades is one of the causes of grade inflation! Spending more time on work should not inform a student's grade, but rather, a student's demonstrated understanding,  relative the learning outcomes, is what should be graded. 

The article also gives some advice to professors and instructors.  The advice is actually good advice.  But here I would argue the advice has little to do with the year the learner was born, and more to do with....well, good teaching.

Making learning relevant, providing specific feedback and not droning for a 60 or 90 minute lecture are as important today as they were 50 years ago.  

The article, although interesting and somewhat insightful, triggers some discomfort for me.  I have always been uneasy with the labeling of groups of students.

I have been part of conversations where adults are quick to label a certain grade level of kids in a school.

"This group of kids is (fill in the blank - smart, leaders, challenging, etc.)"  

We need to be careful not to label or stereotype groups of students.  The danger, as I see it, is that our stereotypes have the potential to negatively impact that critical relationships between teachers and learners.  It is this relationship, rooted in trust, expertise, and high expectations, that allows teachers to meet the individual needs of students.

Are today's student's more "entitled? Are parents more involved in their children's lives for longer?  Are students expecting more for less? Are they more stressed? (I think they are: Relax: It's only high school)  


But before we label this generation, I think we need to ask ourselves "why"?  What is driving this behaviours?  What role do we -  the educators and creators of the current academic systems -  have in encouraging the very behaviours we are seeing (and complaining about) in our current students?

It was Peter Senge who wrote: "Today's problems are a consequence of yesterday's solutions"

Students today are living and learning in a  different world than their parents and teachers grew up in. It's true that our teaching and learning needs to constantly evolve to deal with today's realities. 

I would also argue that there are some pedagogical constants that we can still hold on to - not because students were were born in a certain decade but because they are good for kids.

I also know that I continue to work with this generation of students because their passion, intelligence, commitment and sense of service to others continues to inspire me.

I think this video clip entitled "Lost Generation" illustrates this nicely:

Kids these days.....what an inspiration!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Learning Teams Launched

Each school year presents new and exciting opportunities for learning and growth - certainly for students - but equally important for faculty and staff. To that end, this year we have launched the Vancouver College Learning Teams.

This is an opportunity for the adults at the school to come together on a regular basis to “exercise their intelligence” in the service of the students.

Already, teams have come together to explore topics such as:
  • Learning Empowered by Technology using specific apps (e.g. Notability, Google Apps, Board Maker) 
  • Differentiated Instruction & Technology
  • Technology & Science in the Kindergarten Classroom
  • Faith Formation across the curriculum
  • Problem Based Learning
  • School Advisory Program 
  • Assessment for Learning
  • Olweus anti-bullying program
  • Growth Mindset book study
  • Teaching Games
  • “Make to Learn”
In an effort to maximize the potential for these teams to have complete success we put in place a few parameters and "environmental" considerations, namely:

1. We created time in the day for teachers to meet. Every Wednesday afternoon is dedicated to teacher collaboration. These Learning Teams will operate during this time.

2. We asked staff to come up with Collaboration Commitments. These are the commitments team members make to each other before, during and after collaboration time.

3. We are asking teams to report out on their learning during full staff meetings - thus allowing for a cross pollination of ideas across the entire campus. This also shifts the focus of staff meetings from "information sharing" to a "learning and sharing"

4. We created a collaboration schedule that removed the Elementary School, Middle School, Senior School silos - thus allowing teachers from across the K-12 spectrum to join common teams. As a K-12 campus, it will be exceedingly important that we continue to overcome the tendency to silo and instead take full advantage of the  K-12 learning spectrum. 

5.Each teams will be provided resources, upon request, to deepen their learning experience.

Already, teachers are acting on their learning team initiatives. For example, some teachers are asking for increased student use of technology in classroom (from specific apps to increased access to devices). Other teachers are starting to incorporate Growth Mindset teaching in their classes and still others are reexamining their assessment and grading practices.

All of this is part of a continuing plan to make teaching and learning more engaging, enriching and empowered for our students and teachers.

My early sense is that these learning teams will be a great source of innovation and improvement for our learning community.

Still Figuring It Out.....

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"We Go As You Go"

"We go as You go".......

This was one of my back to school messages specifically directed to our Gr. 12 students. 

As an educator and principal, I have come to appreciate the important role that the senior students have in the overall tone, culture and climate of a school.

This year, as I transition into a new school, this belief has, once again, come into sharp focus for me.

To deepen my own understanding of the school, its culture and climate, I have decided  to meet with each Gr. 12 student over lunch (and yes, lunch is on me) in small groups.  

During these lunch meetings I have been asking the boys to introduce themselves, share something of interest about themselves, share what they like best about the school and to also share any points of advice for me as principal of their school.

My rationale for meeting the Gr. 12's is multifold.

1.  I want to know students for who they are. What interests them? What drives them? What are their passions? What concerns them? What are they saying about their learning?

2.  Like I've said before, I believe that trust in relationships is the currency of leadership. Students need to trust me and I need to trust them. More to the point, student leadership needs to be part of the fabric of a school's ethos and culture. It is important for me to empower positive student leadership. By giving the students a real voice I hope to initiate,in them, a real sense of ownership of their school.

3.  For the school to continue to grow and improve we need open and honest insight into its strenghts and opportunities. There is no better way to gather this insight than to ask the students who have been experiencing learning in the community for years. 

4.  Finally, sitting down with each student, buying them lunch and listening to each of them is a visible and tangible sign of my focus and committment towards students and their voice. 

Spending the last few weeks listening to the students has provided me moments of deep insight and overwhelming admiration for these fine young men. If it's true that "We go as You go", it is going to be an outstanding year ahead! 

Still figuring it out...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Moments of Vulnerability in (New) Leadership & Learning

The start of a new school year approaches.  This year, like last, I once again start a new job (this is not how I scripted things).  I suppose there are times in your life where you have go for it.  To follow your heart and "let go and let God".

Next week I start a new learning and leadership journey as Principal of Vancouver College - a K-12 all boys Catholic School in Vancouver.

To say that I am excited is an understatement. To be surrounded by nearly 1200 students, over 100 teachers and staff and countless parents  - all learning and growing together as a community of faith is inspiring and well, a little intimidating.

As I embark on this new role, I have, over the course of the summer, in quiet moments of vulnerable reflection, found myself asking:
  • Will they respond to my leadership?  What if they don't?
  • Expectations seem high.  Do they know that I don't have all the answers?
  • Do they realize that I see myself as equal part learner and leader?
  • Many see me as "a technology guy".  How will they respond when they see me as a "learning guy"? 
My experience tells that I am entering a warm, caring and high functioning faith and learning community - but still moments of doubt creep in.

I like to think that my own vulnerability and self doubt keeps me sharp and focused.  It simultaneously keeps me grounded and focused on what's important  - namely doing what's right for the students entrusted to my (our) care.

And speaking of students.... as I reflect on my own moments of doubt I also wonder about the many students who enter our schools and classrooms with their own doubts.  We must always be vigilant of their doubts - both those spoken and those kept in the silence of their hearts.  As educators, it is those moments when we turn self doubt into unimaginable successes that we earn our greatest  reward.

As usual, I am figuring it all out.....

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We Are Pilgrims.... Graduation address 2014

On June 7th I had the privilege of delivering the graduation address to the St. Patrick Regional Secondary Graduating Class of 2014.

I have attached the script of my address below.  You can also see the speech starting at the 1(hour):05 (minute) mark of the video below.

I once again want to congratulate the class of 2014 and thank them for the privilege of speaking to them.

I suppose I could give you the 20 second version of every graduation speech told thousands of times over.  It would go something like this:
  • Work hard
  • Don’t quit
  • Be a life long learner
  • Follow your dreams
  • Follow your passions
  • Treat each other and the world with respect
  • There will be ups and downs in life
  • Pray & Love Jesus
But I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to consider something slightly different this morning.

What I want to share with you is a message I would share with my own children - a different type of message….pilgrimage or pilgrim.

What does it mean to be pilgrim?

According to Wikipedia a pilgrim is “a traveler (literally one who has come from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place.”

When I think of the idea of pilgrim I think of my grandfather -who in 1951 travelled from a small village in southern Italy. He brought with him 1 wooden suitcase and left behind his wife and children.

He spent the first year in Canada living in a “shack” working for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

He was a pilgrim.

Eventually he was able to bring his wife and 6 children over to Canada.

He provided for his children but more importantly raised his them to be good human beings and parents themselves.

You can see my grandfather as a pilgrim in his story of immigration - looking for a brighter future for himself and his family. I had the pleasure of growing up with his influence. In a sense he taught be how to be a pilgrim

A while his story is of a different circumstances and different times – You, like me, - like of all us gathered here – we are all pilgrims - on journey to a holy place - we call heaven

You the students have spent the last 5 years or of your pilgrimage at St. Pat's

And now you are about to continue on a different phase of your pilgrimage - life beyond St. Pat’s

The image of traveling and moving is a good one during graduation – after all graduation is a right of passage….

But there is a danger with the image of pilgrim or traveler – primarily that there is tendency to forget at it is in the moving that we do the living - not in the arriving

So here are some advice to keep you (and me) focused “on the moving” and not the arriving as you (and me) continue on your pilgrimage - away from St. Pat’s:

Advice #1: Work alone will not define your life
People will tell you – (and you've heard me say it) – that you need to work hard.

The notion of working hard is part of the fabric of St. Patrick.

When the original high school building was completed in the 1930’s the add in the BC Catholic declared “come and see the school built by the pennies of the working class

Working hard is a noble and necessary thing in life - it will allow you build a home, a career, and be a good provider.

But work alone cannot define your life nor the relationships you establish.

Just like at St. Pat’s - while those buildings were built with hard work and sacrifice - what continues to define this school - your school - are the deep and profound relationships between the people who work and study together

In other words:

Working hard will get you somewhere in your career but it will not guarantee happiness with those that you love the most.

Advice #2: It's what you do with what you know
In the age of the Internet, terabytes and gigabytes, social media, cloud computing, crowd sourcing and open leaning - your pilgrimage will be rich with information. Never before has a generation grown up with such information abundance

From where I stand, these abundant times demand, more than ever, that you become shrewd and skillful learners in how you access, process and make meaning with information you encounter your pilgrimage.

And because all of you will be surrounded by this ubiquitous information, what you know will not be as important as what you do with what you know!

Advice #3: Look out and look in
Many will tell you (and you’ve heard me say this): Follow your Dreams , set goals to get there. Goals and dreams are good and necessary. They motivate and keep us focused.

As you graduate from high school many will tell you that world is full of opportunities for you to embrace and make your own. I've come to learn that as much as we see the world as a windows of opportunity to explore – we must also -in at least equal parts - hold up a mirror to explore and reflect on our own life and actions - For it is the journey inward that provides the fuel for the journey outward.

Don’t get me wrong - As a pilgrim it is good and prudent to look outward and see where you want to go.

But as you go out and explore and new places and exciting opportunities, don’t just take selflies of you in the world.

You must also - periodically, regularly and with intention - take the time to take a selfie of your soul

You need to look out and look in.

And so, I leave you with a few questions to help you pray and contemplate on your journey inward. They are not my words. They come from Jesus. Who asked his own apostles this basic question: "Who do you say that I am? I also leave you with these questions:

Who are you that loves? You are you that has faith? Who are you that has doubts?

Advice #4: Go slow to live in love
We live in exponential times. The rate of change has never been faster.

In our desire to keep up there may be a tendency for many of us to feel inadequate and restless - know that true peace and satisfaction comes in the form of loving, being loved and serving others.

Unfortunately when we are in a hurry it is difficult to love and serve others.
To prove my point I share with you the results of the now famous “The Good Samaritan Studies”

The study goes something like this:

A group a young seminarians who had just finished studying the parable of the Good Samaritan - had to individually deliver a presentation on the parable to a theater full people.

The seminarians, once ready to present, had to move from one building to another. The researchers strategically placed a “person in need of assistance” in the direct path of the seminarian. They wanted to see if the seminarian – on route to deliver a lecture on the Good Samaritan - would stop and assist the person in need.
It should also be noted that that the researchers also built “hurriness scenarios” into the study for each seminarian – creating more or less urgency for each seminarian to get to the presentation room

So what did they find?

Ultimately it depends on how much of a hurry the seminarian is in!

A person in a hurry is less likely to help people, even if he is going to speak on the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Some literally stepped over the victim on their way to the next building!).

I learn this lesson daily from the tender moments I share with my own children. Who want nothing more from me than to play, cuddle or just to be present to them.

Go slow and embrace love and service - with each other, with your friends and those you encounter on your pilgrimage. 

Advice #5: Matters of fatih
I will share with you a simple prayer I frequently share with my own children before they go to bed

“God loves you NO MATTER what you do or don’t do. He loves you no matter of the mistakes you make or don't make."

God’s love is not contingent on anything

You have received the gift of faith.

 I have learned that faith is inspired and nourished in your heart before your head.

Look for Jesus in the your heart but more importantly in the heart of others - in ordinary acts of love and kindness –

I learned this lesson here at St. Pats among you - the students – through your kind words and your kind deeds – as small as opening doors for each other or reaching out to those in need beyond our school and even beyond our country.

Of course, with faith may come moments of doubt and fear.  Embrace the fear and doubt and don’t turn away from your faith because of it.

Mother Teresa teaches me much about this fear and doubt

I her book of published letters - listen to what she writes about her own moments of doubt – in what she calls her “darkness”:

“In my heart there is no faith—no love—no trust—there is so much pain—the pain of longing, the pain of not being wanted. I want God with all the powers of my soul—and yet there between us—there is terrible separation."

Yet, despite it all she keeps on praying an loving:
“In spite of it all—I am His little one—I love Him....”
Mother Teresa comes out of this period of fear and doubt.

Throughout your pilgrimage continue to nourish and grow in your personal relationship with Jesus – for in the end He will not abandon you.

Advice #6: Be persistent in the hope of one humanity
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of listening to a remarkable Canadian – the Honourable Senator Romeo Dallare – former UN Peacekeeping Commander in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994. While in Rwanda nearly 400,000 people were slaughtered in a brutal civil war.

General Dallare was surrounded by death.  In fact stated that:  “He saw and smelt death”

He had every reason to lose hope in humanity.

He saw how evil can take root in humanity.

He saw how humanity can turn its back on the most vulnerable.

And yet he never lost hope.

He was persistent in hope

While listening to him - he retold the story of a 7 year old starving Rwanda boy that he encountered in a house.

In the home with the boy, were the remains of his slaughtered parents.

Surrounded by this horror, General Dallare picked up the boy and looked into his eyes and at that moment he saw – reflecting right back at him were the eyes of his own son – who was growing up in Canada

At that instant General Dallare came to this one important realization:
None of us is more human than another
Money, stature, position, title, citizenship or gender does not make us more human than another

And therefore - it is quite simple:

Treat everyone that you encounter on your pilgrimage with dignity and respect.

Advice #7: Be a good friend that is rooted in humility and vulnerability
Finally I share with you one last bit of advice for your pilgrimage

Surround yourself with good friends – friends who are rooted in humility and vulnerability

To help us understand friendship that is rooted humility and vulnerability –I again turn to Jesus.

All of you will recall the Gospel miracle of Jesus curing the paralytic/disabled man in the town of Capernaum

Jesus was preaching in a home.  Massive crowds had gathered in and around the home. One can imagine a huge line up of people trying to get in through the front door!

And then enters the disabled man. But how did he enter?

He was being carried on a stretcher by 4 friends.

The friends, being self-less and resourceful realize that they couldn't bring their friend through the front door. 

So what did they do?

They thought “outside the box”.

They went around the back of the house,  made their way to the roof and then proceeded to make a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down to Jesus through the roof.

And it is what Jesus says that makes this miracle story most powerful:  As he looks up and sees the friends peering through the hole in the roof he says:  "because of “their faith” (the friends) I will heal you."

It was because of the faith displayed by the friends that Jesus heals the paralyzed man.

Which gets me back to my theme of pilgrim:

On your pilgrimage you will stumble and fall and you will most likely see friends and loved ones stumble and fall – either physically, emotionally, professionally, academically or spiritually

Indeed - “falling or stumbling” is a part of life. The world will tell you that you must find the strength to “get up” when you fall. This is true. You must be tenacious in your resolve to get up when you stumble

But the act of “getting up” does not need to be an individual act of resolve - instead “getting up” can be a community act of service – rooted in humility and vulnerability

So when you see others stumble and fall – be a good friend - and carry their stretcher - for it’s in the act of carrying others that we allow ourselves to be humble.

But equally important – when you fall – and you will undoubtedly fall – you must in a profound act of vulnerability – let others carry you on your stretcher.

And so to you, the class of 2014 I say - you are ready for the pilgrimage ahead.

This school and your family, your community, your faith and your Church has prepared you.

You have inspired parents, your teachers, your family and friends for so many years. Now the world is ready to be inspired and filled with hope by your presence.

I, for one, have been blessed to have been inspired and blessed with your presence in my life.

To you I say:

God Bless You and remember that God loves you unconditionally as you continue on your pilgrimage to the Holy Place