Graduation Remarks by Head of School Dr. Patzlaff

Dr. Amy Patzlaff
The Class of 2019 is special in many ways. They demonstrated creativity when some of them wrote and produced an original song for the whole middle school to perform in the Thanksgiving assembly. They demonstrated generosity when class members donated original art for display in the Manor House. They demonstrated tenacity and sportsmanship when they won the league volleyball championship this year. They showed leadership when they started new traditions, like the international lunch, that bring the school together. They showed heart when they found they had exceeded their fundraising goals and chose to donate the funds to a deserving charity. They showed scholarship when class members earned significant merit scholarships at many of the high schools they will attend next year. This is an amazing group of individuals who, together embody the mission of Clairbourn, Creating scholars and leaders with heart.
When the student council presented a week of announcements focused on the meaning of our mission statement, they suggested that we really don’t need to create scholars or leaders because each student is already capable of both scholarship and leadership. I think they were exactly right. Each of us has everything we need already inside us to both learn and lead ethically and thoughtfully. So then the creation happens through a series of choices that each of us make every day. Your choices either create scholarship or not, create leadership or not, demonstrate heart or not, and our job as a school is to encourage you to make the best choices.

Every time you are given an assignment, you have choices. You can do it, or not; apply yourself, or not; work honestly, or not; put forth your best effort to learn, or not. Your progress and character are created by your choices. When you choose well, you are creating in yourself a stronger scholar.

Every time someone looks to you for advice, or sees you as an example of how to behave, or notices your actions or words, you are leading. How are you leading? Are you creating in yourself a stronger leader?

These attributes are influenced by your heart, and even this is already intact. In you already resides your core values, your sense of spirituality: the instinct to do what is honest, what is respectful, what is responsible, what makes you a good citizen.

I have observed students on their school journeys for years and have noticed a trend. I did some research on the topic and it seems that others have noticed the same thing. People who fall into the if-then trap tend to be less productive, happy, and successful.

Too often people say, “If ____ … then I will ____.” It might sound like, “If get into the school I want, then I will really work hard on my studies.” Or it might be, “If I get more playing time on my sports team, then I will start working on my skills.” Or perhaps, “If people are nicer to me, then I will treat them better.” Or maybe even, “If I finally get the coolest shoes or phone or whatever, then I will feel satisfied.”

But I can tell you from experience and from the research that the if-then formula doesn’t work very well. It leaves you waiting, waiting for some external thing to change, waiting for something out of your control, always waiting for opportunity. It also leaves you without the preparation you need when opportunities come along.

You can flip the script and reframe these kinds of statements to actually work for you. Change if-then to “Because … now I will.” This formula works and puts things back in your control, back where you get to do the creating. Because I want options in my future, I will work hard now. Because I want to be a better athlete and want to help my team, I will spend time on improving my skills now. Because I want quality relationships, I will treat everyone with respect now. Because I want to feel satisfied, I will be grateful for all that I have and can share now.

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” – Apparently this quote is incorrectly attributed to both Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain, but I still like it. It reminds me that our efforts create possibilities, create opportunities, and create character.

So my advice to you is to listen to the values you have learned throughout your Clairbourn journey. Let them guide you. Take advantage of opportunities to improve now (whenever your now is.) Improve your skills now, treat people with respect now, demonstrate scholarship now, hone your leadership now, and most importantly: show others your heart now. The effort you put in now is the preparation you need to be ready to take advantage of opportunities that will come your way, so be ready.

The Class of 2019 fills me with pride and excitement, because each of you, right now, are truly scholars and leaders with heart.

Congratulations to Clairbourn’s Class of 2019. I can’t wait to see what you create for your futures!
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