Parent Julia Wyncoll
Thank you for being given the honour to speak. My speech benefits from the guidance of a number of parents as we worked to collectively envision and try to put words to you as students. Thank you to my fellow parents for being the wind at my back.
Good morning graduating class of 2020.
Stating the obvious, I know the last couple of months wasn’t in the game plan. From this odd vantage point, we are at a particularly keen angle from which to reflect on your time at Waldorf Academy. The abrupt togetherness in the past 12 weeks has brought into sharp focus how much we miss each other. I wonder if you ever thought that you’d say you miss school? Real in person assignments instead of google classroom? Your grade one buddies gazing longingly in your direction? Mr. Singh’s famous speeches in gym class, Ms. Bogin’s sharp eye as you get yet another late slip? The smell of cinnamon wafting from the kindergarten hallway, Ms. Hilt’s rollicking laugh. We had planned our missing of all that for later – for much later, and yet, here we are – stepping forward over the threshold of Madison Avenue even while we try to conjure up images of what it is like to actually be there. The loss came a bit early. I’m sorry for that.
Let’s also say that sleeping in until 10:00 am has had its benefits.
As in other times in history, this moment will mark your personal story. You’ll always remember your Covid isolation and graduation. Maybe in a few years, or a decade, you’ll be able to reflect on how it changed your life. My father lived through World War 2 as a child. He told the story of going to sleep in a bomb shelter, with neighbours every single night for 3 years of his childhood, with his loving mom and without his stubborn dad. In that formative time he learned things about the world, his family, and himself. You will also learn, see things differently and grow during this time. As well, you aren’t experiencing this time as a young child, but rather you are bridging adulthood – old enough to act as a member of community and to ponder your place amidst a rapidly evolving and changing world.
The first time we saw Tyler on stage and realized his inquisitive self was larger than life
Grade six at the coffee house Aurora’s voice startled us awake with its truth and beauty.
Alex’s pottery wheel turning with an ease that went through his fingers to his body to his self, anchoring authenticity.
Noah choosing the colour orange with trademark passion and charisma as a younger student, brilliant in candidly sharing who he is.
Can you remember one of the sit spots when you were camping on a class trip? I think in Grade 7 you all wrote a letter to yourselves that you mailed to your future self. I know it was weird and maybe boring. Adults are apt to ask us to do these strange tasks. But can you still feel the rock or grass under your body, and see and smell what was around you? Can you bring it back for a moment?
Can you remember that moment when you were upset at another classmate, and then how it resolved? Maybe you just waited it out and let it go, or maybe you had to sit in a circle to figure it out as Waldorf children are made to do. I wonder if there was an exhale at some point, that it was now ok or at least good enough. IF you pause is that just as clear as the sound of the bell at the school?
Can you remember your first day at the school? Your first overnight trip? Will the smell of LImonata always remind you of pizza days? These memories and sensory experiences have shaped you and are safely in your heart, mind and body. We hope they will be building blocks for you, cornerstones from which to decide who you want to be, and touchstones in times of trouble.
Francesca’s spirit bouncing high like a basketball, sharing enthusiasm, paired with determination.
Joska, deep as still waters, knowing when to pick the pen and when to pick the sword Raphael’s ever ready smile, radiating caring, peacemaker – taking things as they come
Like his instrument, Sam keeping the steady rhythm. Sensitive, alert, trustworthy.
In middle school, as we gathered Rafaele, Hannah, Kingsley, Tyler, and Joska who made the class so much stronger, I’ve had the distinct honour of witnessing you as a class. I’ve seen you watch and listen, go inward as a class, shutting out unnecessary noise at times, sometimes from within the school and sometimes from without. In these times, you seemed to be able to create a space around yourselves that was safe. Your ability to share with each other, to wait things out, and to stay within the fortress of your class was both admirable and wise beyond your years.
I’ve been extremely impressed that you all allowed each other to be who you were, that you made room for your differences to emerge. It’s cliche to say your differences became the class’s strength, but it’s absolutely true. That group effort to create room for everyone was done in a way that lacked pretence and embodied graciousness. Our world is grappling with perceived and real differences, with disparity and injustice. Many leaders in the world right now could take a page or ten from your book, and come out much better for it.
Seeing Isadora on her first day with the class – huge bright smile on her face, always so eager to participate in life
Emmi roaming through the woods at Killbear, climbing over the rocks, at home and at peace in nature with a quiet and powerful wild.
Oscar’s command of public speaking – quiet confidence and capability, paired with a musicians’ gift of expression
Although light and quick on his feet, Willem leads with kindness, steady and strong
Celebrating each other, as you’ve done in the past few days, you’ve had a moment to see how others see you. It can be hard as a teenager to believe the words of love and admiration that come your way. I invite you to let those words steep like a good cup of tea inside your heart. Your friends see you and they know you.
Now it’s time for you to get to know yourself. For those of you who were at the school from an early age, you’ll remember the symbols we picked for you to try to help us identify you and understand you. We as adults have tried to sense who you are so we could help you become yourself and flourish. I think Willem’s teacher picked for him a snail in his first year at school, which it turns out to be exactly opposite of who he is. Adults get us wrong sometimes, that was an early lesson. Though he has come out of his shell lately.
In this next chapter, you’ll get to decide all over again how to present yourself, who to hang out with, what mistakes you are ok to make once or twice, what mistakes are too weighty to try on, and what you want to spend your time on. You’ll be deep in the work of figuring out who you are, what you love, where to spend your energy. As you get to understand yourself better, you’ll notice hopefully that where there is joy there is also often ability. Follow the path of what you love and take pleasure in the offering of that thing to the world.
Kingsley although massively mischievous, sweet tender and heart of a King
Delicate and princess-like as a child, Phoebe growing into groundedness with a clear voice and vision.
Hannah’s effort in showing emotional strength that broke all barriers as we sat and watched her heart revealed.
Quinn in grade 6 doing a magic trick with the skilled hand of one who has much to reveal, wearing easily Mr. Roger’s sweater of kindness.
I’d like to say thank you to all the teachers at Waldorf. Thank you for your care and attention to the heart and soul of the Waldorf Curriculum. Our children’s time here has been filled intentionally with Block crayons instead of glitter and glue, cursive instead of typing, sit spots and talking circles, the blanket exercise and the all for the team approach to sports. The Waldorf curriculum values community as well as individual, patience and readiness. This slow and thoughtful approach is the antithesis to consumer culture, and offers forth a continual revolution.
We as parents chose this education because we know that what we learn in facts and numbers means nothing without soul and striving and integrity. We want our children to do meaningful work and to learn to be happy from within. How truly privileged are we to get to experience this education through our children’s eyes, and to have our children wrapped in this mediation.
In particular, I’d like to extend my thanks to Jessica. I remember Jessica as an assistant to my daughter’s class, with Ena Bruce. Fresh and young, you were quickly recognized as a leader and a teacher with skill. When you took over this class, you expertly wove routine and expectations around them with a loving hand. Not all Waldorf teachers can go from the early years through middle school, but your maturation as a teacher has parallelled the children’s moving from childhood to teenagers. What was a new passion then, is now clearly a calling and vocation, and you’ve held all of us and the children with expert hands. Thank you for all of it. And we’ll miss seeing your piece of wood in September, but I’m sure it’s going to transform again in your imagination to fulfil a new part of your story.
I’d also like to say a brief thank you from parent to parent if I may. There are parents in this class who have given nothing short of blood to the school. To Su, Carolina and Cindy for acting as class reps and so much more along the way. To those who served on and even ran the Board, to those who sat on Community council, and to those that volunteered time and again to go to PINE and other trips, thank you. Our school is stronger for all of your voices, hearts and hands.
Graduating class, it’s time for you to be your own driving force, and time for us parents to move to the back seat. You are being asked to do that in this most uncertain time in history, and I’m sure at times you may feel overwhelmed. You are witnessing mistakes small and massive in our communities, and some glimmers of hope. You’ve had safety in each other, and you’ve emerged strong as a group. Now is the time to nurture safety in yourself.
And, When this next phase of your journey feels heavy as it undoubtedly will, stop just for a moment. Feel the grass under your feet, the pavement and the air around you. The ability to be still and let yourself be, to listen and consider your actions, to appreciate the beauty in the struggle, the pause before deciding which way to turn.
In closing, I offer part of a poem from Stephen Heighton, an acclaimed Canadian novelist and poet who also happens to be a solid hockey player I hear. When listening to your grade 8 hero speeches, we learned that not all heroes need to be Marvel Comic sized personas, but that small acts can and do make the difference. In this pandemic, we are seeing leaders fail and seeing heroes emerge. This poem is a list of unlikely and everyday heroes, who with their gifts are making a difference. Listen closely and see if you can hear yourself and your friends in the list.
To each of you, we appreciate you and we see you, and its’ been a true joy to watch you grow up. Lean into your gifts.
SOME OTHER JUST ONES
a footnote to Borges*
By: Steven Heighton
The printer who sets this page with skill, though he may not admire it.
Anyone whose skeleton is susceptible to music.
She who, having loved a book or record, instantly passes it on.
Whose heart lilts at a span of vacant highway, the fervent surge of acceleration, psalm of the tires.
Adults content to let children bury them in sand or leaves.
Those for whom sustaining hatred is a difficulty.
Likely to forget debts owed them but never a debt they owe.
Frightened ones who fight to keep fear from keeping them from life.
The barber who, no matter how long the line, will not rush the masterful shave or cut.
The grade school that renewed the brownfields back of the A & P and made them ample miraculous May and June.
The street gang that casts no comment as they thin out to let Bob the barking man squawk past them on the sidewalk.
Those who sit on front porches, not in fenced privacy, in the erotic inaugural summer night steam.
Who redeems from neglect a gorgeous, long-orphaned word.
Who treat dogs with a sincere and comical diplomacy.
Clip the chain of consequence by letting others have the last word.
Master the banjo.
These people, without knowing it, are saving the world