Below is a speech I gave at the Jeffco Virtual Academy graduation last year. It was a fun speech to give and a great way to think about the benefits of online schools!
In 1988, Robert Fulghum published a book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (before you all had even started Kindergarten!). These are just a few of the critical life lessons that you learned in Kindergarten:
- Share everything.
- Play fair.
- Don’t hit people.
- Put things back where you found them.
- Clean up your own mess.
- Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
- Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
- Wash your hands before you eat.
- Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
- Take a nap every afternoon.
- When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
Today I offer you a new version of Fulghum’s list, perhaps more appropriate for the occasion today: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in My Online School.
The first thing you’ve learned in your time in an online school is that, “Midnight is a tough time to meet a deadline.” Perhaps you can all think back to that nightmare evening. You realized at 10 pm that you had an assignment due by midnight. Eyes drooping, you frantically completed your essay on the Historical Significance of the Atomic Bomb, hoping that Mr Bailey might be generous.
Into every life, a few deadlines must come. Meeting them with diligence and planning not only improves your chances of success, it also saves a lot of stress!
The second thing you’ve learned in your online school is that, “Showing up is important.” Remember the first day you heard there was an attendance requirement for this crazy online school of yours? But it’s an online school! How can that be? But as the days went on you realized that logging in daily created a routine. It helped you manage your deadlines and perhaps helped you avoid a few late nights. Sage modern prophet Woody Allen says that “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
This too will be important as you enter the “real world.” I beg of you to continue to show up. Show up for your job. Show up for your family. Most importantly, show up for yourself. Don’t allow mediocrity to be your norm. Be someone that people can rely on.
The third thing you’ve learned in your online school is, “Know when to ask for help.” As you tackled your online courses, there were many tricky problems that you had to overcome. Links sometimes break. Directions may sometimes be unclear. You had to forge ahead into this new frontier and bravely tackle problems that you faced. But you also had to know when to ask for help. You knew that you were not alone, even when your way perhaps seemed lonely.
In the “real world” you are now entering, you will take great pride in being the lone ranger. Paying taxes, grocery shopping, doing the laundry, etc. will become a part of your daily life and you’ll be right to be proud of doing it on your own. I’d even encourage you to have ice cream for dinner sometimes—just because you’re now an adult and you can!
But, sometimes you’ll find sticky problems—ones that are hard to solve on your own. Remember that you are not alone. You can and should ask for help. Parents, friends, and even teachers can continue to be helpful guides and you should never be too proud to seek out their assistance. After all, none of us can do this alone.
The final and most important thing you’ve learned from your online school is, “Have the courage to seek something new when your status quo isn’t working.” You all came to the Virtual Academy seeking something different. You knew that your current circumstances weren’t working for you. You wanted something different. You needed something that worked for your style, for your strengths, for your passions. When people questioned your decision to school online, you bravely answered their questions and didn’t allow other’s expectations to limit your possibilities.
I urge you to have that same kind of courage as you face your life ahead of you. When you find yourself unhappy or dissatisfied with the status quo, have the courage to seek something new. Find the path that works for you, even if it’s different from what others expect. Having courage to try something new is what life is all about and you’ll never be sorry that you challenged yourself.
Each week that you’ve been in my class I’ve added an announcement that began, “Welcome to a new week in English 12!” Today, I’m proud to say, “Welcome to a new phase of your life!” Again, from the staff of Jeffco’s 21st Century Virtual Academy, congratulations!