As I have tried to be transparent as possible and share my learning with others, I wanted to share my farewell speech with all of you. Hopefully it will do justice to an amazing group of students that are leaving our school tomorrow:
My name is George Couros and I am the principal of Forest Green School. I am honoured that I have the chance to address the entire school community, especially our grade 6 students, on the last day of school for the 2009-2010 school year. I have 3 goals for this speech:
1. Not to cry.
2. Make Miss Aronyk cry (As I write this, I am sure it has happened several times by this point)
3. Make sure that all of the grade 6 students know how important they have been to the positive culture of Forest Green School.
Before I start discussing our grade 6 students, I wanted to ensure that I thanked a few groups of people.
Parents, I want to thank you for bringing your children to our school and trusting us with them everyday. Most of you did not have a choice, but I hope that if you did, you would have done it the same way. I especially want to thank you for raising such an amazing group of people that stand before us today. Parents being involved in their own child’s life leads them to more opportunities for success; this group that stands in front of us has shown so many positive qualities and we know this all starts at home.
Staff. This is not just about our grade 6 teachers that have taught these students, but it is about the collective effort of ALL of you. Everyone, from the librarian, EA’s, custodians, secretaries, and teachers in the school believe in always doing what is best for the students. Your kindness and caring for students as whole people and not as numbers on exams is the reason that we have seen these students blossom into leaders. Thank you for always caring about our Forest Green kids.
Standing here today, I look back at where I was one year ago. Leaving a school I cared a lot about and crying on stage as I said my final goodbyes was tough. Looking back, I am not sure if it is easier to say goodbye and leave or say goodbye and have people leave you. This is a tough day for me as the grade 6 students here are extremely special to us. They took ME under their wing as soon as I came here emsured I was always taken care of. I know that as I have become older my “cool” factor has lowered but the grade 6 students never made you feel that way at all. They always encouraged me to join them and be a part of their day. From playing games with Ms. Mahan’s class (and my team winning), to giving candy to Miss Aronyk’s class just to give them a break from their day, and just sitting and visiting with Mrs. Kari and Ms. Morrison’s class, I appreciated every moment that you invited me into your world.
If I have one regret about this year, it was that we did not do the Identity Day sooner. This was an absolutely fantastic day and I got to know the grade 6 students, along with everyone a lot better. I found out stuff that I never knew about you and that you were passionate about. I loved learning about your passion for sports, music, art, along with your own unique gifts that you had to share with the world. Although I knew about several of these passions prior to this, it was an amazing opportunity to see you share your passions with the entire school community. As you stood proud of what you had to share, I was even more proud of your openness to do so. Thanks for your willingness to let us get to know you better.
Although this was grade 6 for you at Forest Green as a student, this was Kindergarten for me as a principal. . I am honoured that I got to address you on your first day of grade 6 and now your last. In my first year as a principal, I wanted to sit back and learn the environment of the school and I was so impressed with all that you did. As a teacher first, we are suppose to be the ones that teach YOU, but in reality, you taught me just as much.
You taught me that every single person in our school can be a leader. You never outright said this to me, but you never had to. You showed it in your actions everyday. The kindness wall and display that you had in your classroom to show all of the wonderful things that you did around the school not only inspired your peers, but it inspired staff as well. Watching you on the playground look after our younger students and care for them was something that inspired me everyday. Parents realized your ability to lead and suggested that it should be YOU that helps as volunteer supervisors on our playground. You never argued or complained, you just gladly did it.
You taught me to be willing to take risks. Watching Miss Mahan’s class organize the run in June for the entire school (another example of leadership) and NOT use rewards as a way of enticing students, but trying to do it just for the health benefits was a risk. It may have not worked out exactly the way you wanted, but trying and not achieving total success, is better than not trying at all. Although the results may not have been what you wanted, I was proud that you took the chance.
You have taught me that a pat on the back is always better than a slap on the wrist. Your kindness towards staff, parents, younger students, and your peers was always on display. Thank you for being role models of kindness and caring and because of this, it has run rampant within our school.
You taught me to be yourself. The way you dressed and carried yourself was never about others, but always about how you felt. From seeing students randomly wearing ties to school, doing the robot at assemblies, sharing their passion for speaking, and teaching people about Tourette Syndrome, you were always you. A saying I have heard this year and sticks with me is “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” You have shown me this over and over again.
These lessons you have taught me: being a leader, be willing to take risks, be kind, and be yourself, are lessons that I will continue to do my best to apply in my own career. For all of you, these lessons that I have learned from you have led you to your tremendous success in your first six years of schooling. If you continue to follow these actions, they will lead to continued success in your next six.
Wherever you future leads you, I will be watching and cheering for you. I am looking forward to updates from your lives and seeing where your education leads. Before you go though, I want to make sure I say thank you for all that you have taught me in my first year of principal. If I can inspire others half as much as you have inspired me, I know I will have been successful.
Congratulations on your day, follow your passions, continue to be leaders, and best of luck in your future.