Ms. Dikes’ Graduation Speech Reply

So, I walked into my office yesterday, around 3 o’clock.  I was very happy and relieved to have finished grading this year’s US history Regents exams for the 11th graders.  When I walked in, my office was full of 12th graders – this was a bit weird, since none of them had been in school since last Monday.  As I walked in someone said, “I can’t wait to hear your speech tomorrow.”  I thought, “I can’t wait either.  Oh, wait, yes I can – I haven’t written the speech!”
After I left yesterday, while I was searching for these fabulous shoes past graduations rolled around in my head and I realized I have no memory of what was said at any of my graduations.  None.  The speaker at my high school graduation was Lefty Drizzell, the men’s basketball coach at the University of Maryland at the time.  Super famous guy.  He could have recited the alphabet for all I remember.  My college graduation was very memorable – we were outside on Memorial Day, in Ohio, and it was 45 degrees.  I had on a dress like this one.  Do I remember that the speaker, Dr Johnetta Cole of Spelman College, had to say?  Absolutely not.
These thoughts were very freeing – since everyone’s going to forget this anyway, I can just run with whatever comes to mind.  Therefore my topic for your graduation speech is…me.  Writers are given the advice to write about what they know.  Well, I know about me and what I have learned from teaching.  So here it goes.
I came to BSGE the same year as many of you, in fall of 2004.  I came with the purpose of teaching 11th and 12th graders, but there were no 12th graders that year.  This meant that I needed to teach a class of 7th graders.  (laugh)  I can’t begin to explain how terrified I was on a daily basis by your smiling little faces (and some of you were little).  However, I plowed through and I think (maybe, perhaps) you learned something that year from me.  I learned a lot of lessons from you guys that year.
Lesson #1: 12 year olds do not understand sarcasm.  This was incredibly hard for me, since I am the Queen of Sarcasm.
Lesson #2: 12 year olds are obsessed by markers and colors.  Making a time line in class became this really surreal experience – all I cared about what the information and events that you put on the time line, while all you could talk about was which color was best and who was hogging the markers.
Lesson #3: having some idea what you are doing as a teacher helps a lot.
Fast forward to fall of 2009 and now you are all sitting in front of me as 12th graders, including many of you that I didn’t really know before this year.  Our task for the year was to learn something about the history of the 20th century world and to get ready for the IB exam.  But the real task for me, as every year, is to keep learning from you.  Here’s what I learned this year:
Lesson #1: No matter what you do, everything will be completed at absolutely the last minute.  I am, of course, the leader in this movement – I wrote the final draft of this speech at noon today.
Lesson #2: Everything does, however, get finished.  Everyone’s just crying with exhaustion by that point, however.
Lesson #3: I have learned more about world history from you than you can imagine.  I have learned more than I ever thought I would know about the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Holocaust deniers, Puerto Rico, Albania, Russian newspapers, fashion designers, modern dance, Colombia, the NBA, NFL and the most overrated hockey game of all time.  All from you.
Lesson #4: The most important lesson is that being in the right place for you is the key to happiness.  I came here in 2004 taking a big risk in becoming a teacher.  I am still here in 2010 because I know that I am in the right place.  Do you ever have this strange feeling where you look around at your friends and say “oh, yeah, this is right.  These are the people that make me happy”?  If you’ve never felt like that, I hope you do at some point in your life.  It feels so good to know that you have arrived in a place where your quirks, interests and general all around insanity fit in well.  You, as students, are a big part of making BSGE the right place for me, and I thank you for that gift.
I wish you all the best of luck, and hope that if you take nothing else away from this year, you will have a small bit of fondness in your heart for Ghana when they play the USA in soccer on Saturday.

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