Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Spoken Word Commencement Speech to the Grads of 2017


I was honoured by this year's graduates of Byrne Creek Community Secondary School by being asked to give the annual commencement address. Each year, the students choose not only a valedictorian from among their own ranks, but a teacher to speak to them as well. I wanted to give them something they would not forget: a little piece of themselves through my eyes.

I asked each grad for a single word that they felt summed up their experience at the school, and then used each and every word to compose a Spoken Word poem. Partly I wanted to do something that hadn't been done before by a teacher during a commencement address. And partly I figured that if they were all listening for their special word, then they would all be listening. Of course, I didn't manage to get a word from every student ; after I was notified, I only had three days to gather the words so that I would have time to have the speech ready. But I got enough--maybe 60%? I made the last edit while sitting on my chair waiting to be announced.

Six lists of words from the 2017 Grad Class.

I wouldn't have had a recording had it not been for one of my students, Sopithan Rajeswaran, who has won awards for his short films. Sopithan is an excellent filmmaker and happened to have been filming parts of the evening for a grad video he was putting together. When I began, he had camera in hand, and the video which follows was also edited and subtitled by him.



This was both the most challenging and most enjoyable speech I have had the chance to write. Thanks to Byrne Creek's graduates for inviting me!