My Going Away Speech at KMS

1 Jun
I was 5 years old when my heart shattered into pieces for the first time. Saying good-bye was tough business.  Tears rolled down my cheeks as I whimpered in heartrending sorrow.   I couldn’t believe it was actually happening: Peter Pan and Wendy were parting ways.  They were such great friends.  I didn’t understand it.  I stared at my parents’ television screen in disarray.  It’s taken me 25 years to appreciate the moral of Peter Pan’s story: Listen to your heart – your heart will remind you to do the right thing no matter how old or young you are, even if the right thing means to say good-bye. 


I’ve had a lot of time to listen to my heart, especially its supplication of me to move on.  And I’ve had the honor to share these thoughts and feelings with so many children, families, and staff.  The teachers and students spent precious moments dialoguing about what it means to say good-bye.  I’m so grateful to be part of a community that allows for such a confortable space to talk about these things…because sometimes it’s not easy to say good-bye, especially to those who we’ve developed strong relationships.  So what does good-bye mean to me?  Well, it actually means hello.  It means both.  Many languages only have one word to mean good-bye and hello: Shalom in Hebrew, Aloha in the Hawaiian language, Ciao in Italian.  Even the Beatles understood this singularity as they cheerfully sang, “Hello hello, I don’t know why you say good-bye I say hello.”  So hello to you all! 


In the past year I’ve often been blasted back to a fond memory of the last day of school one year ago. It was topsy turvey day.  We were all outside in the front, wiping off the whip cream from our faces after the pie fight.  I felt a cool and collective air of joy: parents, kids, and teachers were smiling and laughing together.  I was standing there feeling everyone’s excitement for the upcoming summer.  I was so happy having had the privilege to be part of such a wonderful community.  But I was also a bit sad. Even though I knew I would see most everyone the following Fall, I felt a pang of heartache.  I noticed Randall standing next to me while I was in my daze, and I seized the opportunity to share my feelings with him.  I told him how my heart was a bit achy because we were all parting ways.  He chuckled and said, “Man, it doesn’t get any easier.” My Mom used to tell me a wise phrase of sobering truth whenever I complained about something being difficult to do.  She would say, “Nobody said it would be easy!”  Indeed it takes a lot of effort to think and do positively in response to challenging circumstances.  But I am very lucky; I had many teachers constantly guiding me, helping me learn how to overcome difficult trials of life: those teachers are the KMS children.


Every child in this room has taught me so much.  And I want to share a story about one lesson I learned from a child, who taught me an incredible secret about how to be a good teacher.  It was 2:00pm on an April Tuesday. All of the upper elementary kids had gone downstairs to be with the kindergarten staff so that the upper elementary teachers could have a staff meeting.  After making the hand-off I came back into my classroom, grabbed my notebook, and saw this child sitting on the carpeted floor, diligently assembling a Kapla-block structure. He didn’t notice me come in at first.  I watched him just for a few moments and admired his industrious craft.  He was building an impressive structure with the wooden blocks. It looked like a Roman Pantheon.  Finally he turned his head and stole a smile from me and I seized the moment to share my feelings with him. “This is incredible,” I said! “You know what makes you an awesome builder?  It’s that you have the courage to overcome the challenges of failure.  Whenever your buildings fall down or someone else knocks them over, you don’t throw your hands up in defeat; you learn from your mistakes, and you start building again. You’ve built this incredible masterpiece because you know how to overcome your fear of failure.  Thank you for teaching me to persevere by making sincere efforts!


Then he said, “Yeah!  If my building falls, I just rebuild it even better and stronger.”


“Exactly!” I said.  “You have the wisdom to learn from your mistakes and turn them into beautiful works of art! I know people who are my age who feel so guilty every time they make a mistake, as if the whole world is ending. Many times those people are I!”


Liam looked at me with a puzzled expression.  “Why would you feel guilty for making mistakes?” he asked.  “That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

“Exactly!” I exclaimed with excitement.  “Why in the world would I feel so guilty about anything?”


This story reminds me of an old Zen proverb: “Take the dung that you get in life and turn it into beautiful fertilizer for your garden.”  In other words, when you make a mistake, always ask yourself, ‘what can I learn from this?  How can I turn it into a positive outcome?’  We can’t always control our circumstances, but we sure can control how we respond to them.  Liam really got me thinking about why it’s so awesome, and cool, and valuable to be part of a caring school community. I began to understand it from the tiny wisdom that bubbled into my heart every time I walked through the gates of 1335 Gurrero St.  I got it every time I put on my slippers at 7:30 in the morning looking forward to saying Hi to Randall as he sat in front of the computer, making sure the school was prepped for another day of joy from hundreds of children.  I knew that he was busy so I left him alone…most of the time, but not a day passed that I wanted to just sit down and chat about life with him.  And many times I did!  Those moments were very precious to me.  Randall inspired me to always always always, put the needs of the children before his own.  He rarely talked about this concept.  But he always showed it through his actions.  That is the definition of a hero for me.  And that is what I strived to guide the children toward: to awaken to their own potential as role models – as heroes and social engineers of harmony between all. 


So what does it mean to say good-bye?  It means to show gratitude for everything I learned from my teachers – the children, their wonderful families, the staff and directors.  It means to apply that wisdom for the benefit of others wherever I may go. If any grown-up would like to understand what I mean, I strongly suggest that you just turn to the  children.  They may not tell you.  But I guarantee that they will show you.  They will show you simply by heeding to the voices of their hearts.  I too, have listened to my heart.  And my heart has told me that it’s time for me to move on.  But not with sadness; rather with gratitude, love, and positivity.  Thank you everyone for sharing your joy and wisdom with me.”

So Aloha!  Shalom, Bonjour!  Ciao!  And Hello!!!


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