295. Graduation Speech

A friend of mine was asked to speak at a graduation. She was supposed to say some things to people who were about to start looking for teaching jobs. She asked me to try my hand at speechwriting, and here’s what I came up with:
“When I was asked to talk to you, I tried to pick out some words of wisdom to set you on a path that would get you a job and then enable you to do the job well and keep it. I don’t think there are words like that. There are so many variables that combine to build each teacher’s style that even if I could pick out great words of wisdom, they’d have to be tentative.
Besides, maybe you don’t want someone else’s wisdom right now. Maybe you want to try out your own wisdom first. Advice can help some people avoid some mistakes, but some of what I think are mistakes have to be made, either because you have to be the one to see their inappropriateness, or because for you, they’re not mistakes.
It’s also possible that you’re much more aware of what you think you’re doing wrong than of anything you’re doing well. There may be times when you hope nobody can see or hear what you’re doing. It’s unfortunate but true that the people who could most use help are often the ones who are least apt to ask for it, or accept it when it’s offered. When you’re starting out, you want to show people your strengths, and maybe asking for help, in your mind, is an admission of weakness. Maybe you think you’re supposed to start out as an expert.
After all, you’ve probably dealt with applications or interviews that ask you what you’ve already done to prove that you’re the one who should be hired. So no matter how earnestly I tell you that teachers have got to be learners, you may be hearing a different message from the people who can hire you. They may not actually be sending that message; they may know you’re just starting your teaching career, and they may be looking for people who seem ready to learn. But that isn’t necessarily what you hear.
Still, notwithstanding the scary questions that ask you what you’ve already done, it could be that schools are looking for you – the one who is excited about teaching – excited enough to look for jobs even when finding one seems like an
impossible dream. As teachers, we specialize in impossible dreams anyway. And no matter how thrilled you’ll be when you land your first teaching job, please leave room for the possibility that the school or school system that hires you, the teachers who will be your colleagues, and the children you’ll teach are pretty lucky to have you.
If you need some help, I hope you can ask for it. If not now, soon. You have some great ideas that we experienced teachers have never thought of, even after years of teaching, and if we hear about those ideas, we may want to use them. We hope you don’t mind. And in return, we hope you ask us for help sometimes. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of commitment to growth. And we’re teachers. That means a lot of us are really into helping people learn, anyway. Please give us a chance.”

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