In a matter of hours, I’ll be done being a student. (Unless I pursue my Ph.D, but that’s not going to happen for at least a few years! I need to recover from the past 17 years of my life.)
I graduate from grad school at 4:30 this afternoon. I’m graduating with a 4.0 GPA, and receiving an award at the graduation ceremony. I’ve worked my butt off during grad school, and it’s actually freaking me out to see the results of all of my hard work. I’ve been nominated for a few awards this year, which I’ve kept to myself because I get embarrassed talking about my accomplishments. I was nominated to represent my grad school as a student teacher of the year, and I was also nominated to be the student speaker at graduation. I didn’t receive either of the honors, but it truly blew my mind that my advisor–and others– would think I was worthy of these moments of recognition for the hard work I’ve put forth in becoming an educator.
In the spirit of graduation, as well as the disbelief that I’m actually graduating this afternoon, I’d like to share the speech I wrote for graduation with you. One of my friends was selected to be the student speaker for graduation, which is awesome because she’s an amazing public speaker. Plus… I probably wouldn’t have been able to stop crying if I had to read this out loud.
Thank you all for supporting my journey to become the best educator that I can be. I may be unemployed at the time of graduation, but I also know that I will find a job where I can make a difference in the lives of students. It’s what I’m meant to do.
Without further ado…my speech:
Thank you so much faculty, staff, distinguished alumni, family, friends, loved ones, and, of course, the Rutgers Graduate School of Education Class of 2013! I’d also like to take a moment to thank the behind-the-scenes people, whether they be the guy who sends us countless emails– I’m looking at you Ken– or the College Ave Gym workers who made sure we had at least three fans in the place today. Everyone in this room has made this day possible, and I want to be sure that everyone knows how grateful we are for each and every one of you.
We’re about to receive a piece of paper– or, at least a temporary piece of paper until our “real diploma” gets mailed to us– that tells the world we are now eligible to be educators. For some of us, this paper is sending us ricocheting into the world outside of the college bubble for the first time. For others, this paper is adding a slew of letters to our last names. No matter what the case, we’re all about to take the education world by storm!
This afternoon, I want to let you all know that I will not use the t-word in my speech, which is a little odd considering this is the Graduate School of Education Convocation. Before I go any further, I need to take a moment to reveal something about myself, something that only a few members of my Cohort know. It’s something I’ve struggled with since I became part of the GSE, and I’m not too sure how many other people in here identify this way. Folks… I don’t identify as a teacher. I identify myself as an educator.
The dictionary defines a teacher as “a person who teaches, especially in school.” It defines an educator as “a person who provides instruction or education.” While the two words may seem like synonyms to most of you, to me they are worlds apart. According to the dictionary, a “teacher” is defined by his or her profession. An “educator” is defined by providing something that has the potential of changing and saving lives. This is what the GSE nurtures us to become.
Now, I know not everyone in the class of 2013 will receive the “teacher title.” Some of us are going into College Student Affairs or becoming Supervisors. Others are going into Counseling. Some of us have earned our Ph.D’s or are becoming Faculty Members somewhere. Others are here because they’ve become certified in something or are becoming Coaches. This gym is filled with graduates going in so many different directions with one thing in common: we are here because we wanted to continue our education. We wanted to dive further into the education field and make a difference some how, some way.
Every single one of you will make a difference in the lives of people, whether you realize it or not. You are the educators of the Rutgers GSE. You are intelligent, willing to be challenged, and undeniably amazing. You have the power to change lives for the better, and the power and knowledge to inspire others to do the same. You will get through the easy days with moments of grace and finesse, and even get through the tougher ones with determination and resilience. That, and a lot of caffeine. You are survivors. If you can make it through hurricanes, life, death, and the RU Screw while at the GSE, you can do anything. You can take on the impossible and put it in its place. You are the best of the best, and nothing is going to be too hard for you to handle as you face “the real world.”
In the last week of my student teaching internship, the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting occurred. In a semester that had already caused my students to lose their sense of security and stability because of Hurricane Sandy, I knew my students would want to discuss what had happened… and I let them. In my Creative Writing elective course, the students discussed the various individuals who had either lived or died in the shooting, and how the media had conveyed them. Victoria Soto, the teacher who hid her students in their cubbies and then took a bullet for them, was brought up. I could feel the inevitable happening, and, sure enough, one of my students said, “You know Miss B, this whole thing has me wondering… would you take a bullet for us? Be honest.”
As educators, especially in today’s world, we’re going to be asked some tough questions, some of which we may not have the answers to. We’re going to have to think on our feet, and we won’t always be right. We may say or do or even be “the wrong thing,” but at the end of the day, as I responded to that student, as educators, it is our priority to create a safe learning environment for all of our students. We need to not only change the lives of our students, but save them as well.
I know that each and every one of us is about to continue on an amazing journey. Each and every one of us has worked extremely hard to get to this moment. Our legacy begins today, and I cannot wait to see what mark the Rutgers GSE Class of 2013 educators will leave on this world.
I am so proud to be one of you.
Thank you so much. Enjoy the rest of this afternoon… We did it!!