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Class of 2017: When you see a chance…

May 27, 2017 Comments off

Taking a break from politics and budgets with my message to our three senior classes graduating today:

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Teachers, principals, family, and friends, it’s good to see all of you. Without your support it’s hard to imagine all of these graduates being here today with all they’ve accomplished.

This graduating class will cross the country to go to college. It will cross the world as members of the military. It will impact the future of our community too.

Today, graduates, we celebrate your accomplishments. We stop to remember your first days of school, your awkward phase, the moments when you were figuring out what you want to do with your life, the times you’ve changed your mind about what you want to do with your life, all the friends you’ve made, and even a few heartbreaks along the way.

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Over the last thirteen years, you’ve had some amazing experiences that you will always remember. You’ve had some you’d rather forget too, I’m sure. Let’s not focus on that. The accumulation of these moments brings you here today, to a ceremony we call Commencement.

Commencement means beginning, and that’s what this is. As trite as it is to say, this is the beginning of the rest of your life. And I hope it’s a long and successful life, filled with excellence. You’ll have ups and downs; we all do. You – and only you – get to choose which experiences and which qualities define you.

The poet, William Blake, wrote, “He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.”

What does this mean?

Well, “pestilence” is a pretty tough word to unwrap. At its most literal level, it means an epidemic or widely-spreading disease. It can also be used to describe something morally corrupting. That’s what he means here.

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“He who desires…” We all have desires. We all have hopes and dreams. And while patience is certainly a virtue, you can’t wait forever for the things that you want. Sometimes in life, you have to press the start button yourself. Sometimes you have to pause and re-start. Nobody else is going to hit the button for you.

The price to pay for never acting on the things you want out of life can be heavy. You miss opportunities. You wonder what might have been. Regretting inaction can weigh on you just as heavily as regret for the things you actually have done.

Regret, by the way, is one of the prices we pay for living life. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’d rather live with a mistake than spend a lifetime wishing.

Just remember that where you are today, and the opportunities you have in front of you right now are the end result of your own hard work and the support you’ve had around you. Make choices that mirror your passions.

If you haven’t figured out what your passions are, here’s a hint. They’re the things that make you hear a drumming noise inside your head – so loudly that you can’t ignore it. When you’re around certain people or doing the things you truly enjoy, that’s really just your heart pounding and trying to guide you. Listen to it once in a while. I know I’m supposed to tell you to think and plan – and you should – but leave room for what feeds your soul, too.

Cherish your family and friends. Seek mentors who seem happy and figure out what makes them tick. Be that mentor for others. Most of all, seize opportunities to be kind, especially when it brings you no recognition at all.

Ahead of you is your future. Nobody else gets to dictate it for you. Nobody else can navigate it for you. Own it.

Congratulations, and good luck, Class of ’17!

 

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Your life is not a gif

I’ve had a couple of days away from budgets and politics. In case you too need the respite, here is my commencement address to our three graduating classes of 2016:

Graduates, congratulations! Parents, congratulations! Teachers and principals, congratulations! Today we’re celebrating hundreds of individual accomplishments, but we’re also celebrating the collective contribution of each of you here. These students enter the world from high school – whether it be college, work, or anything else – on the heels of the caring adults who have taught them. They enter the world with the friendships They’ve  developed during this time as well.

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Students, you come here today with memories and hopes and dreams. You have goals and ambitions. You have certainty, and yet you face the unknown. I’ve talked with many of you. I know you have plans for the next four years, and then the 10 years after that. Well hold on for the ride. Some of what you have planned will unfold exactly as you expect it to. And then some won’t.

There’s no perfect blueprint for adulting – that’s a word I’ve learned from my own children who have entered post-high school life. Well, it’s not really a word, but a short time ago, many of the things we say now weren’t officially words either. When I was in high school, there was no Internet. One of my favorite words – blog – is only a little more than a decade old. The words photobomb and re-tweet were just added to the dictionary last year.

Another of my favorite words, though, is gif – G-I-F. You may think it’s a recent addition to the language but it actually dates all the way back to 1987, when I really was in high school. It’s an acronym that we use as a word. It stands for Graphics Interchange Format. Those of us who are on social media much at all think of gifs as short intervals of video that are cut to form a continuous loop. Basically, they’re the same five or ten seconds repeating again and again and again.

They’re funny. They’re sometimes effective tools for illustrating a point. And sometimes, they’re just obnoxious ways for cat owners to express themselves.cat continuous loop.gif

What they are not, however, is a blueprint for adulting. You don’t want to repeat the same 10 seconds of your life over and over, and you certainly don’t want to repeat someone else’s life over and over again. It’s your future out there. They’re your decisions to make – your triumphs, your mistakes, your struggles, your accomplishments.

When the good things you’re bound to experience happen, treasure them. Take pictures and videos. Tweet them to friends and family. Throw them out on Instagram and Snapchat. Add captions. Relive them through the magic of Timehop, or whatever comes next in the way of social media. Getting caught up in a moment is a great thing sometimes. Just don’t be stuck in an endless, repeating loop.

skills.gifAs you exit high school, you have a certain number of choices before you. What you’ve done to this point has helped determine whether that’s a high number or low number. As you get older, you’ll still have choices to make. You can choose a career path now, and you can change your mind in a couple of years. It’s easier to do that at 20 or 22 than it is at 33 or 44 or 55. The older you get, more people will be impacted by the choices you make.

I can just think of two critical things you don’t want, though. One is to let other people determine who you should be. As hard as it is for your family to hear sometimes, you are the person who has to figure that out. Nobody else gets to choose where you live, how you make money, or even what you want to name your children. If you’re fortunate, you’ll have an endless stream of unsolicited advice. Sometimes it will even feel like pressure. Just remember, though, sometimes the best path is the one nobody saw coming.Dobler

The other thing is not to let your life unfold so that you look back on high school and say, Those really WERE the best years of my life. Don’t peak at 18 or 19. Even if you loved every minute of high school – and I know you did – make the next four years even better. Then, make the next four years even better than that. You can always climb higher than where you are right now.

And when you hit a rough patch along the way – whether it’s because you made certain choices, or it’s because sometimes, bad luck just lands on us – figure out what went wrong and change your path. Don’t spend another year, or four years, or 10 or 20 years, beating yourself up, wondering what went wrong.

Your life is not a gif. As much as you don’t want to keep a highlight reel on in the background at all times, recycling the same moments again and again, you definitely don’t want to relive the unfortunate times more than you have to.

It’s a great world out there. It’s huge. It’s great to be a (Bomber/Eagle/Titan), but you can be even more than that. Some of you are going to be Raiders, or Sooners, or Cowboys, or Bronchos, or any number of other things. You’re going to become mothers and fathers, and someday, in the very distant future, even grandparents. You’re going to go to work, and some of you will even become somebody’s boss.

using that wordAnd when you do all of this, when you’re smack-dab in the middle of adulting, I hope you’ll look back at your time in high school – really, at all ages of schooling – as something better than a gif. I hope you’ll see it as a gift – that’s with a T on the end. Wherever you go in the world, I hope you’ll see the value in educating our youth, and building this country’s future.

Leave home. Come back and visit. Email your principals, counselors, and teachers and let them know how you’re doing. Call your parents often. Never forget your roots. They’re what give you the strength to pick the path that’s ahead of you – the path you choose, whether it’s the one less-traveled, or the one with all the tread.

Congratulations, and good luck, Class of ’16!

 

College and Career Readiness

May 10, 2012 Comments off

The new old mantra with the current leadership at the SDE is that schools need to make students more college and career ready. I think we can all agree that this is a worthwhile goal. Nobody wants to see children who fail to reach the end of high school or who reach the end of high school without a plan for the future and the skills to achieve that plan.

A favorite speaker of the SDE is Tom Vander Ark, who after visiting Oklahoma recently, wrote about the conference he attended in a blog post. He wrote that “about one third of our students are really college and career ready (and that may be a generous estimate).” He may have been speaking of Oklahoma specifically, or the nation in general. It’s hard to say.

Here’s what the facts tell us. Using 2010-11 data as a reference point, we can see that the 4-year dropout rate for the state of Oklahoma is 10.2 percent. Of the 89.8 percent of students who do not drop out, 97.9 percent graduate at the end of their senior year. Of the students who graduate, 54.4 percent go to college. That gives leaves us with 47.8 percent of students who should be graduating then attending college.

We know of course that college isn’t for everybody; many students participate in Career Tech programs in high school. The most recent data show that 53.8 percent of seniors did in 2010. While many of those students aren’t necessarily career ready, some are. And some of them may be the same students who go to college.

In any case, clearly the number is greater than we’re being told. And still, it’s not high enough. That’s where I agree completely with reformers of the past and the present. We need to be preparing students to do something meaningful the day they finish high school.

Throwing out a statistic such as “a third” and then deflating your own estimate by calling it “generous” is a great way to stir the public. If you make your living by (1) writing and speaking about taking education from the classroom and moving it to the computer; and (2) investing in learning content platforms, you have a vested interest in perpetuating the myth that public education has failed. This is one reason why the education reform movement itself needs reforming.

Those of us who work with students every day know that the complexity of their lives is a variable not often considered by the SDE officials who haven’t put the hours into instruction. We also know better than they that in promoting reforms that ignore those issues, they will create a system that will be less likely to level the playing field. I suspect they know this too.

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