Possum-bilities? Endless!

opossumIt was pointed out to me on Wednesday night that, with my youngest child in Grade 12, I was attending my final Speech Night as a parent (4 years with the eldest, 8 years with both kids and 4 years with the youngest for a total of 16 years!). I told my daughter afterwards that I thought it was her best one of the lot and her response was “You don’t remember my ‘Opossum’ speech in Grade 3, do you?” She inherited her mother’s looks and intelligence but definitely has her father’s wit!

Many, many years ago, we invited a graduating HS student by the name of Mike Zogala to speak to the Grade 8 class at their grad ceremony. We hand-picked him because we knew he was an excellent speaker and marketing-wise, we hoped he would be a great example of “how your kids will turn out if they stay at Mentor for high school”. His very first lines to the audience were: “I have dreaded Speech Night for 13 years. Now that I actually have a choice in the matter, I say ‘yes’ to giving a speech in front of students and parents! What is wrong with me?”

Mike had those feelings of dread almost 20 years ago and I imagine if I took a quick poll of the HS students who presented their speeches on Tuesday (TSS) and Wednesday (Mentor), the majority would agree that they could think of much better things to do on a school night. What I will also bet is that if I asked the question “was Speech Night worth it?” to our alumni, they would no doubt be on the other side of the argument. University students come back and tell us all the time that when it is time for group presentations, they are almost always voted as the person “to do the talking”. One of the shyest girls I ever coached in volleyball is now a liaison officer for a university and talking in front of strangers for a living. And Mike Zogala? Last I heard, he is a lawyer in New York City and I assume still uses “persuasive speech” in order to be successful.

As we prepare for our first Open House this Saturday, I think that one of the great advantages we have as a JK to Grade 12 school is the school-wide events we hold like Speech Night. We smile at our kids while they recite poems and songs in kindergarten and then before you know it, they are in their graduating year discussing varied topics like “Memory and Self-Identity”, “The Butterfly Effect”, “I Speak Cantonese, NOT Mandarin”, and “Hilma af Klint”. I doubt that my kid (or anyone!) will ever need to speak again about Hilma af Klint (a turn-of-the-century Swedish abstract artist obsessed with the paranormal…to save you a Google search), but the skills used and experience of presenting this speech will be used for years to come. If you know a family who would find the same benefits in a Mentor College and TEAM School education that you have discovered, please invite them to come see our school this Saturday morning!

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School

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