Brewster High School held its 30th Annual Scholars’ Award Program on June 8th. Three hundred and eighteen students were recognized for making honor roll and high honor roll. In addition, a group of seniors were recognized for being on the honor roll since 6th grade, making them seven year scholars. While we still honor students for their academic prowess, we also know that this distinction doesn’t cover the full range of their skills and abilities as learners. The 21st century skills embodied in our Strategic Coherence Plan reflect a view of the world that our students will need to operate in that is much more aspirational and progressive. I made closing remarks at the program which expound upon this sentiment.
Good evening scholars, parents and family members, educators, and guests. Congratulations to the 318 student scholars who we are here to honor for their accomplishments and achievements. The recognition that you receive tonight is certainly well deserved. Many educators had the honor of working with you as learners as you traveled through the school district when you first entered as a kindergartener to where you sit now. Depending on your grade, you have spent between 1,800 to 2,340 days in schools. That’s a lot of time!
As we assemble here this evening to celebrate your remarkable lives to date as student scholars, I want you to think about how you are going to leverage your scholarly lives after Brewster High School to prosper in a world where, what you can do with what you know, is far more important than what you know. What has happened in the world that makes this the new “normal”? and What is our role in helping you to achieve this vision for the future.
A profound shift is underway in the economy and world that looks at success much more broadly and comprehensively. There is a body of work led by authors such as Carol Dweck who wrote Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn to Fulfill our Potential; Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith, authors of Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era and Peter Johnston author of Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives, that remind us that schools should focus more on helping young people to do what Wagner and Dintersmith have described, which is to “help our youth discover their passions and purpose in life, develop the critical skills needed to be successful in pursuing their goals, be inspired on a daily basis to do their very best, and be active and informed citizens”. These authors go on to say that “to have good prospects in life, to be most likely to succeed–you will now need to be creative and innovative problem-solvers”. They are deliberate in not saying that you have to be good at math, science, social studies, English, etc. They are not saying that achievement in these areas is unimportant. However, to prosper in this era defined by innovation, you also have to be able to create new knowledge and innovate with the content as the means, not the end. In a world of driverless cars and smartphones that keep getting smarter, automation that has forever disrupted how we live and what we do, we must make sure that young people have had experiences along the way, from kindergarten to 12th grade, that require that you apply what you know to solve problems and be creative and innovative.
None of what I describe is easy or will occur over night. This shift will take time, but we are taking steps to get there. In Brewster, we are talking a lot about the important skills outlined in our Strategic Coherence Plan, which includes critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, perseverance, resilience, adaptability and civic and ethical responsibility. Our goal is to integrate these essential skills into the content that is taught, how the content is taught, how it is assessed, what a classroom should look like and how we adults will learn to do this. Because these conversations among educators and administrators are happening with greater frequency, there is more awareness that the metric that we are using to judge you, scholars, may under-represent your talents. Wouldn’t it be remarkable one day if we had scholars night that also celebrated something that you created and patented, a social movement perhaps that you started or an innovation that improves how we live, think and function as a society.
We know from the authors that I mentioned earlier, that this way of thinking will make you a very valuable citizen of the world that you will enter as a college student, worker, or member of the armed services. Along this journey, you will encounter many talented young people like yourself who worked very hard to achieve at high levels. In some colleges, you will be surrounded by students who are just as motivated to achieve as you are and you won’t necessarily be the smartest person in the room. This is why you have to discover your passions and purpose in life while you are still a student in Brewster.
Along the way, you must also remember that being kind, honest, compassionate, caring and courageous–the soft skills, which are really the hard skills, are what will distinguish you from others and what will make you stand out in this sea of scholars. It is just as important to be known for how you treat people, your core beliefs, moral compass, ethical foundation as it is to maintain a high academic honors. Define yourself, what you believe in and what you are passionate about, which may not necessarily result in praise or financial gain. At the end of the day, these are the things that distinguish you and that people will remember.
Again, congratulations scholars and thank you to everyone for coming out tonight. Good night.
Valerie Henning-Piedmonte, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
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