Tsukuba International School
Graduation Speech
Shaney Crawford
June 22, 2017

Thank you all for coming today to celebrate our students’ learning.

We are lucky this year in that very few of our students will actually be leaving after this ceremony. With very few exceptions, our Kindergarten students will go on to Grade 1, our Grade 5 students will go on to the Middle Years Programme, and our brave Grade 10 graduates and our patient Grade 10.5 students will come together to form our school’s first Diploma Programme cohort. This gives me a rare opportunity to give some advice in the graduation speech that we might actually see the results of in our school in the future.

I listened to a podcast recently that talked about a North American tribe that had four fundamental questions.

  • When was the last time you danced?
  • When was the last time you sang?
  • When was the last time you told your story?

And here is the one I want to talk about today…

  • When was the last time you listened to the story of others?

Our school is currently working on gaining accreditation from the Council of International Schools. One of the major concerns of CIS is whether we just call ourselves an international school, or if we really are helping our students and the other people in our community to become more internationally-minded. It is pretty easy for us to say, just look at our students! See, we have students from India, the Philippines, and France, therefore, we are, ipso facto, international. End of discussion!

But just having people at our school from many cultures is not enough. We have to be actively learning about how to be better global citizens at our school in order to be considered a true international school, worthy of its name.

So, what does it mean to be internationally-minded?

Well, since we can’t achieve a goal unless we understand it, this year, we put together a team of students, parents, teachers, and board members to try to come to an agreement about what it means to be internationally-minded. Here is what the group came up with.

At Tsukuba International School, we believe that international-mindedness is:

  • understanding, accepting, and celebrating human diversity
  • having a sense of our own identity while respecting others, regardless of their cultures, beliefs, or values
  • engaging with the global community to gain a variety of perspectives and to foster a belief in our shared humanity and guardianship of the planet
  • being able to communicate with empathy and compassion, by speaking with our own voice and listening with an open mind
  • being a responsible global citizen by making a contribution and taking action to make the world a better place for all

Over the next year, we need to look at our school and decide if we are doing a good enough job at this. How do people become more internationally-minded by being a part of our community?

One way that I would like to suggest is by asking ourselves regularly,

“When was the last time I listened
(I mean REALLY LISTENED)
to the stories of others?”

I think it is quite easy to think of ourselves as the hero of our own stories. We relate everything back to ourselves and feel personally affected by everything that happens around us, but actually, even if we are the main character in our own stories, we might be only secondary, or even less important characters in someone else’s story.

The Learner Profile is all about being a good “main character”. You should be a thinker. You should be principled. You should be an inquirer. These are all good traits for the “main character” in your own story.

In addition to being a good main character, though, you should also try to think about the stories of other people and how you fit into them. Are you the “bad guy” in someone else’s story? Are you the “fairy godmother”? Are you the “mean girl”?

To put it another way, think of someone with whom you regularly argue, or someone you don’t like very much, or someone whose views are often opposed to your own. What does it feel like to be that person? Why do they have such a different worldview? And why do they always argue with you? What kind of character are you in that person’s story? Now think of someone who comes from a different country, or whose skin is a different colour, or whose family is richer or poorer than yours. What does their life look like, and how do they see you? What kind of character are you in that person’s story?

What I am trying to say is that being internationally-minded is not just about having friends from many different countries. It’s about being more humane and more connected to humanity.

Shakespeare says that “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” However, I would like to suggest that all the world is a story, and that we have to remember that there are SEVEN billion stories being told at once. We play the main character in only one of those stories. The stories of others include plots, characters, and situations that we may have never thought about before. And until or unless we start to think about our roles in the stories of others, and until we start to actively seek to find out more about the stories of others, I don’t think any one of us has the right to say that we are internationally-minded just yet.

So, graduates and everyone else in our school community, I would like to thank you for a wonderful school year, and leave you with one more fundamental question, which I would like us all to think about over the next year, and that is…

“What kind of character are you in the stories of others?”