Back to School Night Introduction:
Hello. My name is Becca C. and I am your School Psychologist. I am also known as the feelings person or Mrs. C. In my field, unconditional positive regard for children is the primary ingredient with which you can support any child to face and rise to any challenge; it is the secret sauce, if you will. When I was first introduced to this incredible school, I discovered a truly special educational environment where all the adults lived and breathed this same authentic sentiment. It is truly an honor to be going into my second year here.
I would love to share just one story with you: The other day, I was standing outside at recess time. There were 2nd and 3rd graders running, and laughing and enjoying the beautiful day together. I was soaking up this joy with some reverie when suddenly, I hear my name from far away—“Mrs. C!” I looked to see an adorable little 2nd grade friend coming running toward me and he stopped and said with very authentic interest and care, “Are those new shoes?” After that we had a sweet conversation about how his day was going and when he went back to playing, I thought about the joy that moment gave me. It was from a moment with a sweet child in which we were seeing each other and exchanging an acknowledgement of caring. They weren’t actually new shoes, but I kept that new-shoe feeling with me all day. It is my goal to share that feeling with all of your children. Whether it be new shoes, or a new challenge, new skill, new friendship or even a new perspective on looking at an old problem, my hope is to give your children that feeling so that they may carry it with them while they face the beautiful challenge of learning everyday and of becoming their best selves.
Upon Your High School Graduation:
I cannot believe we are here together in this moment! The love, honor, & privilege I feel to be a proud mother of a successful high school graduate is overwhelming! I was thinking about the ceremony, and how my heart may burst with these feelings! I was also thinking about the speeches--I love a powerful, moving commencement address! I admire the ability of a speaker to inspire audiences to look back reflectively and also hope for the future at the same time. When I thought about the messages I would wish for you to hear on your special graduation day... I had so many to wish for. I may not be able to present them as powerfully as a seasoned commencement speaker--but my advantage is that I will share them with you with all my love and motherly care.
You have been tremendously successful in your k-12 public education. I know you already know what hard work feels like; what it looks like & the sacrifices it requires. I also know you understand how that pays off and makes you happier than any indulgent avoidance of hard work could do. That is one message I wanted you to remember--Happiness does not mean the absence of negative emotions. True happiness includes and embraces all of life's experiences. Being happy means sometimes being sad, hurt, angry, scared, or uncertain. It is when we lean into these negative emotions, not run away from them, that we can know joy by moving forward through struggle. You know that song? "Don't Worry, Be Happy?" Well, it should really say, "Worry, But Be Happy!" Happiness comes from love, gratitude, and hard work but it does not come in the absence of worry, fear, sadness and other emotions that we wish we could avoid.
I hope that as your very first teacher, growing up with me & in our family has taught you this. We are so very lucky and also very happy! But life is not all rainbows and smiley faces. It is okay to feel bad and even better to be able to express that to those who care about you. Our family has experienced many sad, difficult times--struggles, fights, and painful losses. It has never not hurt. Even though you and your siblings could only understand those times through child-like eyes, I hope I never pretended to be okay when I was not. And I hope that you will never pretend either.
Next fall, you will attend one of the most prestigious universities in the world. We are so proud of you and we all know that your hard work and ability got you there. At college, you will be surrounded by the most brilliant people that you have ever encountered. You will most likely find yourself doubting your place there. "Do I belong here?" You will ask yourself. "I am not as smart as these people." You will whisper in your mind. Please, my darling girl, when this happens to you, remind yourself that self-doubt happens to everyone! Wanting certainty and understanding only proves your intelligence...but you must push the voices of self-doubt away and focus on a thought that gives you strength and courage. Your Grandfather, the most brilliant man I have ever known, had self-doubt. Chosen as 1 of 2 Fulbright Scholars on an entire continent to come to the United States and study at any of the Ivy League institutions...he doubted his intellect and wondered at times, was he smart (resourceful, resilient, regarded...insert any characteristic here) enough? I know this because when I was in college and felt the same way, he shared that with me. We all face self doubt at times, especially when we are comparing ourselves to others. The secret is, you don't have to compare yourself to anyone. You are a fantastic, brilliant, beautiful and unique collection of the most magnificent, infinitesimal pieces of stardust from our universe. You are forever perfect and you are neither a sum of your achievements nor of your last mistakes. You can choose who you want to be everyday- everyday is your fresh start and you can choose based on what you believe in. Don't be afraid of being wrong, making mistakes, or failing. Those are the times that you must purposefully reflect, grow and learn and then you will. When you are successful, be proud of your work, but don't rest upon it. Every day is just the beginning and beautiful things will continue to happen for you when you choose to act upon what you know to be important for your character. Hard work, the willingness to express your vulnerability, the ability to pick yourself up and try again when you fall--you have shown us all that you believe in these things--remind yourself of them when you feel doubt.
And by all means, remind yourself that you are there to learn, not because you have answers already. So ask questions in your own words. Don't let an inner bully tell you, "It's a dumb question." You will have a world of answers at your feet...but you must keep asking questions and tell someone when you don't understand. Enjoy the pursuit of things you don't yet understand! The truth is, the more we learn the less we understand, but that should not keep us from growing and acting upon our values. Don't let anyone define you, your potential, or the quality of your thinking. Not even your professors! They must grade you. You must use their expertise to become better...but understand that a grade does not define you. You become more and more your brilliant self everyday, this is in your power. Define that self yourself and defend your definition fiercely, with all your heart. You are, already, who you wish to become. It is all nascent in you, waiting for you to acknowledge and cultivate the becoming. You have, already, everything you need to grow and learn and be truly happy; the real happy, which includes being sometimes unhappy and growing through it. Embrace it all. It is a fabulous future waiting for you! You are so loved and we are so proud of you, always.