BY Wally Leipart
As we enter the last week of school, I want to thank our parents and community for all the support that has been expressed throughout the year for our school and students. From the classroom to the athletic field and all points between, our students have experienced success that we are all proud of. I also want to recognize the dedicated teachers and staff that have put in numerous hours throughout the year in transforming instruction so it is more learner-centered. Our personalized learning pilots have expanded throughout the district and are making a difference in how students see themselves as learners. So far we have established a foundation and have created goals for what we will accomplish next year in personalized learning and the K-8 iPad deployment. As we move forward it is our intent to remain focused on students and their learning needs.
This is also a time to celebrate the accomplishments of our seniors as they graduate. Recently I heard a talk show host talking about graduation ceremonies and that in most cases the speech and stories are about perfect plans, pleasant pathways and successful endings. Often you don’t hear about the challenges, the moments in which one has to pick him/herself up because no one is there or is too focused on their own issues. Here in Merrill we pride ourselves in saying that we provide the best education where students are motivated and engaged in learning. After hearing this talk show I am hoping that we have helped our graduates develop the capacity to overcome challenges.
So let’s play a quick game of guess who of individuals that overcame challenges before becoming successful (answers are at the bottom of the article).
Most of us think of genius when we hear this individual’s name, but he didn’t always show such promise. He did not speak until he was four and did not read until he was seven, causing his teachers and parents to think he was mentally handicapped, slow and anti-social. Eventually, he was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. It might have taken him a bit longer, but most people would agree that he caught on pretty well in the end, winning the Nobel Prize and changing the face of modern Physics.
As one of the best-selling artists of all time, this man has become a household name even years after his death. But back in 1954, he was still a nobody, and Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired him after just one performance telling him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”
Most people wouldn’t believe that a man often lauded as the best basketball player of all time was actually cut from his high school basketball team. Luckily, he didn’t let this setback stop him from playing the game and as he has stated, “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
These individuals have three things in common: They took risks, they weren’t afraid to put their plans on hold to pursue a dream, and they believed in themselves. While these individuals have reached stardom; we are surrounded by individuals who have taken risks, pursued dreams and believe in themselves. They are neighbors, grandparents, moms and dads, they are friends.
So graduates, as you continue on with life’s journey I want to encourage you to focus on a few things:
1. Character is at least just as important as intelligence.
2. Treat everyone with respect. Be aware of other people’s feelings and find ways to help those whose feelings have been hurt.
3. It’s not always easy
4. Work Hard.
5. Set Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound Goals.
6. In whatever you do, visualize the best possible outcome.
7. Believe in yourself.
8. Learn to relax.
9. Practice Patience.
10. Last but not least, remember: You can pick your friends, you will probably lose touch with some of your friends, but you will always have your family. So be sure to call your parents every once and awhile, they deserve a status report on their investment.
ANSWERS: Albert Einstein, Elvis Presley, Michael Jordan