I am always humbled and honored to have the opportunity to work with our future. Below is the graduation speech I gave to the PV Class of 2019. Thanks to David Geurin, author of "Future Driven" for the inspiration.
Good Evening Dr. Winning, Members of the Board of Education, Dr. Scelso, Mr. Seborowski, Pequannock Administrators, community dignitaries, Pequannock Valley School faculty and staff, parents, family members, friends, and members of the PV Class of 2019. Here we are, gathered together in a beautiful air-conditioned auditorium (Thank you Dr. Scelso), to celebrate the accomplishments of some very talented young men and women. We are here to share in the joy, the excitement, the enthusiasm and the energy that I have had the pleasure of witnessing in the hallways and classrooms of PV School for the past three years.
Now parents and family members, I don’t know about you but over the past several weeks in preparing for our 8th grade activities I found myself asking, "Where is the time going?” It seems like yesterday we were all sweating together in the 6th grade hallway at summer orientation as the students were decorating lockers with wallpaper, chandeliers, lights and shelves ready to embark together on a journey into their future…..and now…..here they sit in blue and gold caps and gowns and their lockers empty....…..The future is here….”Where is the time going?....The time is here…..Their time is now.
The journey that has been the last three years for the PV Class of 2019 reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite novels, ‘"The Lord of the Rings,” that says, “It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” The young men and women that sit behind me have gone on quite a journey over the past three years… Whether it was in the classroom as one of the first classes to be part of our 1:1 Chromebook program, being active participants in our STOMP OUT BULLYING initiatives, winning county championships, raising awareness for sustainability, building a school garden, being recognized for community service, earning Superior ratings at music festivals, collaborating with your peers on house days, designing your own TED talks in Social Studies or leading fundraising efforts, you represented Golden Panther Pride with your individuality, your intelligence, your determination, your character, your passion, your talent…….your Drive.
One of the many things I will remember about this group is that you challenged me to be better Principal. You are learning at such a rapid rate. You have knowledge and skills with technology that amaze us everyday. You are doing things in classrooms that to be honest, your parents and I were probably doing in high school…. You made me think about how we could make sure we are preparing you for your future. You challenged me to learn. So I did the only logical thing I could think of….no, I didn’t ask Amazon Alexa “How to Make School Better?” I did the the “old fashioned way.. ...I opened up some books and started reading. A book that I picked up was called Future Driven: Will Your Students Thrive In an Unpredictable World.” The book encouraged me to make sure that you were ready for not just what you need to do in the classroom, but what you need to do to be successful in your life. The author, David Geurin, gave some simple advice…..advice that I would like to share with you tonight as “our future.” The advice is……... Be ready…
Be ready to serve. The actor, Jim Carrey, in a graduation speech to college students asked them two questions. “How will you serve the world? What does the world need that your talents can provide?” “Come on Mr. Hayzler….we are only in 8th grade. I’m still developing my talents.” My answer to you is very simple. “How can you help serve the world?” Follow your heart. Rely on the things that PV has taught you. Go out into the world and transform it with your love, your kindness, your intelligence, your creativity, your courage, your passion.
Be ready to empathize. Not everyone has the same experiences that you have had. Not everyone has been fortunate to live in a great community, go to schools where your teachers care for you and desire to see you succeed. Embrace the opportunity that you will have as you move on to high school and beyond. Instead of putting others in their place, put yourself in their place.
Be ready to be an engaged citizen Get off your cell phones. Communicate face-to-face with people. The greatest ability we have as people is to develop relationships. Talk, laugh, work together…..get involved.
Be ready to think. The world needs thinkers….they need doers. You have so much at fingertips that will give you information. Use it to change the world for the better. Think about ways to do things differently...to think smarter….and harder .than anyone else.
Be ready to take risks….Risk takers set goals and in spite of all obstacles do everything in their power to successfully attain them. Taking risks means making mistakes and having an understanding that in order to succeed you have to be willing to accept the fact that you may fail. As NBA player Michael Jordan states, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying.”
Be ready to be an Upstander, not a Bystander. It is tough growing up in the world today. We have to be in this together to make the world a better place. Strong people stand up for themselves….stronger people stand up for others.
Be ready to dream. Set goals and when you reach them….go further. Have the courage to take a chance on yourself or for something you feel is right. I have watched many of you pursue things you were passionate about. Whether it was a project, a school rule, a sport, an activity…..you took a chance. In the words of Walt Disney “All our dreams can come true...if we have the courage to pursue them."
Finally….Be ready to create hope...Don’t ever believe that you can’t make a difference. It is our hopes that shape our future. I have watched you for the past three years make a positive difference at PV and you have left a hope in all of us for a brighter tomorrow through your accomplishments together. You have lived our motto of "Knowledge. Spirit. Promise" with a Future Driven Mentality … You have made school better for all of us.
So….as the door to PV closes and you step out onto the road, it doesn’t matter where you get swept off to. Use what you learned at PV. Explore...Think...Discover….Hope.......Dream…...Live Your Excellence……..and …...Be Ready…..We believe in you. Congratulations!
This blog post was inspired by a Twitter post by Rich Czyz, author of "Four O'Clock Faculty." Thanks Rich for the inspiration!
Are my grades in? Did I turn in my PDP? Do I have my Safe Schools training certificates printed out? Did I call parents of students who failed for the year? Is everything labeled for the custodians? Did I save all my work to my Google Drive? Did I take down my bulletin boards? Is all student work returned? It's a mad dash to get all of the items on the end of year checklist done so that when the last bell rings, summer can officially begin.
But what about the "real" checklist? What about the "end of year" checklist that requires attention paid to the biggest responsibility we have as educators? Before the last days of school are over did you remember to treat students as individuals? Did you give students opportunities to reflect on mistakes as part of the learning process? Did you let students take chances? Did you empower students to take control of their learning? Did you inspire your students to be better people? Did you teach students to ask questions? Did you do everything you could?
What if this was the "end of year" checklist that was required to be completed in order to leave for summer vacation? How many of the checkboxes would you be able to to check off? If you still have a chance to check off some boxes this week, which checklist will you use?
Richard M. Hayzler
A life long educator and current Principal of Pequannock Township High School in NJ, Rich is excited to share his ideas and thoughts about education and how we can change the world for our students and our staff.