(by Jeff Hopkins, Principal Educator on June 11, 2016)

I was just reading that you don’t necessarily get trapped forever in black holes anymore. Also, the universe might only be two-dimensional and we only perceive it in three as we would a hologram. We can now use CRISPR technology to edit genes through their RNA pretty easily. Tesla pre-sold 40,000 model 3 electric cars that have not even been built yet and will not be delivered for almost two year. And Southern Vancouver Island was now thought not to have been covered with ice at all during the last ice age.

What I am getting at is that things change. Things change, and so do our perceptions of things. This has always been the case, but I would argue that human beings are becoming more adept at finding things out than ever before. At least in the areas that we are looking.

So how do people react to these ground-shaking discoveries that force us to re-examine reality and our relationship with it? Often with disdain or indifference. Why? Well, some of it is so far removed from our day to day that it really does not make much of a difference on a personal level. And some of it, while perhaps closer to our daily reality, is a bit inconvenient. I know I sometimes find myself wishing that things could just slow down and stay still for a while. Energy is required to adapt to change, whether that change is beneficial or not. And if we acknowledge and respond to all of the changes around us all the time, we would be exhausted all the time.

So, these graduating learner who we are celebrating here today have been through a great deal of change in a very short period of time. All of them came to this school, PSII, from somewhere else. And in almost every case, that somewhere else was very different from PSII.

School isn’t everything, but people do spend about 30 hours a week there, or over 1000 hours per year, or 13000 hours between kindergarten and grade 12. So it is not insignificant.

I have to say, these graduates have managed the change well, each in their own respective ways.

The good news about change, is that if you have some control over it — if you are in the proverbial driver’s seat – you can withstand much more of it. In fact, you might even seek it out. That is essentially what ambition is. Or motivation. Or inspiration. Or perhaps a combination.

When we are born, we naturally seek out new experiences to add to our schema, moving from rolling over, to crawling, to walking, to running, and all the while watching our parents put things up higher and higher on the shelves…..  That is to say, we are born to adapt. We are wired for it.

Adolescents are wired for it more than anyone else. Evolutionarily, the species relies on adolescents to reinvent the world, at least to some degree, for us to avoid stagnation. Teenagers are the explorers, the rebels, the questioners, the inventors, the entrepreneurs, and the rebuilders.

This group leaving PSII in a few days has lived that change. They have fulfilled their role as adolescents, and we hope that we have helped them do that. We have tried very hard to create an environment that is about learning and not about a lot of other things like compliance, or conformity, or sifting and sorting people as though they were sand and rocks.

And we know that this change to a new way of thinking about school has been challenging for both these grads and many of their parents. It takes energy to change. It takes energy to acknowledge that change is inevitable, even if the change is good. And these were not the kinds of changes that could be ignored – these were “in your face” changes that affected people every minute of every day.

So now what?

These PSII graduates will be finding their respective niches “OUT THERE” in the real world. Luckily, they have dabbled with the real world a bit here at PSII. They have not seen it only through little insets in textbooks, or on group field trips, but in their real, day-to-day, inquiry-based learning activities that has seen them actually interact with the actual world. LIKE THEY WERE PART OF IT! Imagine! Teenagers let out of the cage, even during weekdays before 3:30!

And now they will continue. As much as a graduation ceremony is considered by some a rite of passage, I hope we have reduced the distance or the severity of that passage to some degree, by easing people into the world a bit at a time, and not just preparing people abstractly for an unnecessary plunge.

There is a trade-off though. These people are non-conformists, and inventors, and entrepreneurs, and questioners and explorers – and they may find resistance even beyond high school to some of these habits of mind that PSII grads have exercised so much.

Graduates, I encourage you to stay the course. Continue to follow your curiosities and your passions, even if it looks like you are the odd one out. Later in life, you will thank yourself. And the world will thank you.

I look forward to seeing what you do next.

Now, in the words of the immortal bard, Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip,

Okay, you made me scared, you did what you set out to do
I’m not prepared, you really had me going there for a minute or two
He said, you made me scared too, I wasn’t sure I was getting through
I got to go, it’s been a pleasure doing business with you.

Thank you.

Address to the Graduates of 2016