An Educator's View

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(The following is a short speech delivered at the promotion ceremony of IVA's first graduating class.)

By Ian McCurry, English and History Teacher

I still remember the first day of school. We had our beautiful ceremony out in the courtyard, with all the excitement, all the expectation. And then half of you came with me and half of you went into Ms. Noble’s room. And I remember looking at you, and seeing you looking at me, and I was bursting with questions. What would this be like? I wondered what questions you had. What were your expectations? What did you want to know? In fact, I asked you, right there in that moment what were your questions.

“Where do we change for P.E.?”

“Do we get lockers?”

“What class do we go to next?”

“Can I go to bathroom?”

“Can I start a club?”

I knew of course that you had other questions. Deeper questions. And I would come to love some of those questions throughout the next three years. I’ve been listening these last three years. I’ve been listening most intently to your questions.

“What were the first human beings like?”

“Are there undiscovered hominids still somewhere else in Africa?”

“Why did Bilbo go with the dwarves to the dragon Smaug when he was so afraid?”

“Why was the town in Maniac Magee split between blacks and whites?”

“Why were so many Jews, like Anne Frank, killed?”

“Why did Maycomb decide Tom Robinson was guilty?”

“Why do people tell stories?”

“How do writers come up with their stories?”

In short, your questions have said to me, “What is the world like?” “And why is it that way?” and “Could the world be different?” “Could it change?”

Your questions have said a lot about who you are and who you will become.

If I had to give you all a gift—the most valuable gift I could think of as you leave our school—I would give you something you already have. I would give you back your questions. Because I believe, more than anything else, these questions will help you walk through this world with a sense of wonder and excitement.

So in a sense graduation, commencement, promotion are endings. It is the end of a school year. And for you 8th graders it is the end of middle school. And there is, of course, a sadness with that. But graduation, commencement, and promotion are also beginnings. Today marks the beginning of your next journey. And as you go to your various schools, I encourage to go with questions. Keep asking questions. And keep seeking answers to those questions.