Tuesday, September 12, 2006
It is September. The schools are full, the kids are in motion, and for the past few weeks parents have been buying shoes, backpacks and computers by the busload. The children, their families, and everyone involved with the schools have commenced.
So I ask a rather remedial question: Why do commencement speeches take place at the end of school, even punctuating the close of your involvement? It's at the beginning of school, at this time of year, that a commencement speech needs to take place.
So for all of you stepping foot across freshly waxed floors, straight rows of desks, clean chalkboards and teachers you never knew existed, this essay is for you.
Know this: You are all in this together. Some of you want to be there, some of you don't. And tomorrow, those feelings will change, and change again the next day. Everybody is feeling the same thing.
School is a shared experience. The operative word of that sentence is "shared." At whatever point in school you may be, you know how to do this. You know how to share. If you see somebody without a lunch, paper, or something to write with, offer what you can. If you notice somebody getting distracted, share your ability of focus. If you see somebody who is depressed, share your energy and enthusiasm. If you observe somebody being picked on, share with them your strength.
Mother Theresa said, "Poverty exists because of our refusal to share." Do not allow your classmates, for one second, to become impoverished, at any level or through any means.
The Golden Rule: "Do unto others as they would do unto you." Print this. Write it on your binder. Carve it into your desk. Make this your gauge of interpersonal operations. Your mantra. Your own law of living. Live this through every action you take. The Golden Rule exists in the writings of every major religion on the planet, and should be on the front of every schoolhouse in the country. Put it somewhere so you can see it every single day.
Show up. Be there. Go to school, every day. It's not that big a deal. Life happens only when you're in it, and your life is in school. And when you get there, do your work on the day you get it. Absence and procrastination will guarantee failure. But being there, and finishing your work, will absolutely guarantee success.
Know that you'll get bored. Awfully, painfully bored. It's part of the process, and nobody is immune. The key to dealing with boredom is this: try not to mind. Look at it as a condition of school, kind of a low grade stress. If you can stay with the boredom, and try not to let it bother you all that much, you'll get through any difficulty that school can offer.
Manage your TV time. It's there for entertainment, not anesthesia. Don't use it to distract yourself. Be discriminating. Watch what you want to watch, but be selective. And keep it to two hours a day.
Keep trying to read. Don't give up if it's hard, just keep at it. When I first read anything by Shakespeare, I had to read one paragraph at least 20 times before I knew what he was talking about. But on the 21st time, I got it. From that point, it read like music. It was worth it. Keep at it, and you'll be rewarded by the same kind of melody.
And remember this one last part: To study means to practice. It's like learning an instrument. In this case, you are practicing the instrument of your mind. Your classroom is the orchestra, and the teacher is the conductor. Follow the music of your head. The more you practice, the better that melody will sound.
Today, use the practice, the attention, the compassion and the work to create the score that becomes your individual composition. You are the only song that sounds just like you.
We wait to hear the beautiful symphony of your life.
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