From the Principal: Message to our Graduating Classes of 2015

Tsukuba International School
Graduation Speech
Shaney Crawford, Principal
June 18 2015

Students, Parents, Teachers,

Welcome to the 2015 TIS Graduation ceremony. It gives me great pleasure to say a few parting words to the graduating classes and the students who are leaving our school. Last year, I asked Ms. Kono for some advice about what I should say in my speech. Her advice was that I should say, “Congratulations. Finish!” While I did not choose to follow her advice exactly, I did appreciate her help, so I asked her for some advice about what to say this year. Her response was, “Well done. Finish!”. I am beginning to notice a trend.

Every year I have to come up with a topic for the graduating speech, and every year I wait until I find something that inspires me. This year, I have been thinking a lot about the concept of community. I recently heard a story of a woman who found herself in need of assistance. Her teenage son was late getting home from school and she was worried about him, so she called the police. The police arrived and asked her to call her friends and neighbours and ask them to help look for her son. However, she replied that she didn’t have any friends who lived in the area, and she didn’t know any of her neighbours. She was a single parent, so she had to suffer through this problem by herself and could only rely on strangers for help.

I am happy to report that her son came home and he was fine, but this case makes me very sad. While Japan and other countries are hoping to educate children to be internationally-minded, I wonder if anyone is also thinking about making sure that our students are also community-minded.

I think both are necessary, so what does it mean to be both internationally-minded and community-minded?

Recently I took the Japanese Language Examination (日本語検定). These tests often ask you to fill in the blanks to create compound words. On my test, one question asked me to use the same character twice in a four character compound word. BLANK hito BLANK iro (in English, BLANK people, BLANK colours). The options for answers included the kanji for the numbers 1, 7, 10, and 10,000, and some other kanji that meant “many” or “several”. I hadn’t heard this expression before, I so had to guess.

One person, one colour?
Seven people, seven colours?
Many people, many colours?

All of these answers seemed reasonable to me, but I think the best answer is 10,000 people, 10,000 colours, so I said 「万人万色」(man nin, ban shoku). It seems to do the best job of conveying the idea that it is a good thing that there are lots of people in the world, and we should expect that they will all have different ideas.

Unfortunately, I discovered later that that was not the correct answer. Do you know what the correct answer is? (10 people, 10 colours — juu-nin, to-iro). I have often been told that Canadians exaggerate, so perhaps “10,000 people, 10,000 colours” is the Canadian version of this expression.

Since we are an IB World School, I looked at the IB Mission Statement to see whether it includes both international-mindedness and community-mindedness, and it certainly refers to international-mindedness when it says that it “aims to develop people who will help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect”. Another important point is how it “aims to encourage students to understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right”. I believe that our school is built on this idea, so we are indeed working towards making our students more internationally-minded.

So, what are we doing to make our students more community-minded? Of course, the PYPs have the concept of action, and the MYPs have the concept of service and action. These are both ideas that help our students pay attention to their community. We also have the learner profile, which urges us to be caring, good communicators, and open-minded.

However, one important point is missed, I believe, and that is are we teaching and learning how to build communities? We can be caring and open-minded in communities that already exist, but how do we go about building up new communities?

The world has changed a great deal since the advent of the internet. We can now have communities in both real and virtual space. This means that people can join many different kinds of communities in their lifetimes. However, there will almost definitely come a time in your life when you are — hopefully only temporarily — without a community around you. You might move to a new city, or a new school. You might start university, or a new job. And when you do, what will you do to ensure that you have a community around you? How will you interact with those around you so that you are accepted into an existing community? And if you happen to come to a place — like Tsukuba — where sometimes it can be hard to find a community, what will you do? I hope the answer is clear — you need to make your own community. And you can do that by trying to make connections with the people around you, and bringing those people together under a common cause. You don’t need 10,000 people with their 10,000 colours. You only need two to start. And then each of you need to find two more like-minded people, and so on. Don’t wait for a community to find you, you can become your own community!

Our school is a community, and sometimes we feel like full members of the community, and sometimes we are made to feel like we are not. This is the spot where international-mindedness and community-mindedness intersect. It is all well and good to be open-minded about foreign cultures and ideas, but if you also spend your time gossiping about the people in your immediate community, you are not helping to create a better and more peaceful world. Similarly, if you are only kind to the people you know, and are “cold” to those outside your immediate community, you are not helping to create a better and more peaceful world. International-mindedness and community-mindedness are two sides of the same coin. You need both sides for your coin to have any value in changing the world for the better.

My point today is that there are many different kinds of people in the world, and there are many different kinds of communities that you will find yourself a part of in your lifetime. There will be people in those communities that you don’t particularly get along with. There will be people who you feel you need to compete with. There will be people who are mean to you. What I would like you to think about during these times is the idea that is common in many martial arts. “Respect your opponent”. Many martial arts start with bowing to your opponent because without having someone to fight against, first of all, you can’t play, and second of all, you can’t get better. While I don’t recommend that you think of everyone else in the world as an opponent, I do hope that you consider the need to give everyone their due respect. The people you come into contact with can play an important role in your life, whether you like them or not. Your attitude towards them, by which I mean your behaviour both in front of them, and behind their backs, will determine whether you really are both internationally-minded and community-minded, or whether you just think you are.

Graduates, please accept my challenge to develop both sides of your thinking on this topic. Do not just do a bit of service and action and assume that you have made the world a better place, if you then go and gossip about your friends behind their backs. Your good action towards your community on one hand gets cancelled out by your negative action on the other. If you really do want to make the world a better place, please start by thinking about how you can do a better job of being both internationally-minded and community-minded, and how you can demonstrate that through your everyday actions.

Also, is it okay if we make our new school motto「万人万色」(man nin, ban shoku) ? It may be a Canadian exaggeration, but I think it sounds really nice.

To all of you who are finishing one of our programs, or leaving our school, I would like to say both congratulations and well done.


Categories: From the Principal