Be Your Own Superlative

As delivered at the Rising Up Ceremony on June 9, 2017…

Good morning and welcome to our 2016-17 Henley Rising Up Ceremony,

Thank you families, students, teachers, and staff. We are here today to celebrate another milestone in our children’s lives. We appreciate all you have done to support these amazing young people.

I would like to acknowledge our families for all of their love, time, and commitment. You encouraged our students to do their best, high-fived them when they achieved, and stood beside them when they failed. When it was time to get back up, you held out a hand and they ROSE.

I would like to acknowledge our faculty and staff, not only the 8th grade team who worked tirelessly to deliver high quality instruction, to teach content, skills and understanding, and to support, mentor, and enrich the lives of our 274 students, but also the 6th and 7th grade teachers, cafeteria, office, and custodial staff, our guidance counselors and the countless others who work to do whatever it takes for kids.

I would also like to acknowledge each and every one of our students. You have breathed life into these halls for three years. You cared for each other, you worked hard, and you challenged us to give you all that you could handle. We hope you are proud of who you have become. You did well.

I took a small poll yesterday about how many boxes of tissues we may need for today’s event and the 8th graders looked at me as if I had sprung a second head! They have been waiting for this day for days, maybe even months, and they are anxious to transition to high school, to enter into that new and fresh part of their lives. We did all we could to get them ready and we have to have faith that we send them with the skills, the hopes, and the desire to become their best selves.

While it has been a long time since I was in middle school (and I will thank you all, 8th grade, to not ask how long:), I’d like to share a memory of my own middle school years. I remember a point in my life when I started to be more aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Learning had been something that came easily…I usually caught on to new concepts quickly and I was experiencing success as both a swimmer and a soccer player.

And yet, inevitably, there is a time when that changes and it did. I was driving home with my mother from a summer swim meet and I had just gotten beaten by a rival competitor. I wasn’t feeling great. My mom tried her usual pitch to cheer me up and finally stated, “Be your own superlative.” Don’t compare yourself to others, compete against yourself.

Now, let me pause by saying that I did prep our students at yesterday’s awards ceremony by asking them if they knew what a superlative is…they were mostly familiar because of the yearbook class’ tradition of putting out the “Best of the Class” honors, like Best Smile, Best Sense of Humor, etc.

So, to expand on that idea, a superlative is a comparison suggesting the highest quality of an adjective or adverb. For example, strong is an adjective and strongest is its superlative because it indicates the highest degree of strength. Likewise with prepared and most prepared.

“Be your own superlative” is an important piece of advice that I would like to pass on to you, Henley Class of 2017. It is often our habit as humans to compare ourselves to or compete against others. It is in this way that we “size each other up,” yet it is in this way that we begin to gain or lose confidence in our own abilities. For example, if you work really hard to earn a B in Algebra and hear that a student got an A, our inner voice may tell us that he/she is smarter than us. Today I challenge you to stop comparing yourselves to others. Do not become someone else’s superlative, but rather, be your own.

Let me just take one more minute to point out the gains you make when you do this. Each of us is an individual who has differing strengths, interests, passions, and areas for growth. We do not learn at the same rate or in the same way. We don’t develop in step with one another, but in our own way and in our own time.

So, as you “rise up” to 9th grade, take some time to learn more about yourself, your interests, your passions, and your areas for growth. Pursue things that you do not want to stop doing and set goals for yourself based on what you want to accomplish. Do not look at others and say they are better, smarter, happier, or more successful. Look within you and challenge yourself to get better at something you love, learn more about something that interests you, be happier because you take time to appreciate who you are, and be more successful because you are not comparing yourself to others, but improving your own self. AND, remember you is good, so celebrate you, all you have accomplished at Henley and all you will become at Western (or your high school destination) and beyond. We love you all and wish you the very best as you take this next step in your life. Come back and visit; you’ll always have a place here.