Sunday, 14 September 2014
Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Graduates.
I feel humbled and greatly privileged to be delivering this graduation speech. In giving my speech, I am going to use one of the indispensable tools of all Early Childhood teachers – Storytelling. As an Early Childhood studies graduate, my speech is based primarily on Teaching, in saying this, I acknowledge all graduates from a range of disciplines and trust that some of what I have to say will resonate with all of you here tonight in some way.
My story begins with the recognition of some significant influences in my life and my studies: God, who has been my rock and constant source of strength from a very young age; my dear Dad, who passed away in February and would have loved to have been here tonight; my mum, who is here - and for that I am blessed; my lecturers, tutors, fellow graduates, and last but not least, my very patient family!
At the age of 18 years old, I travelled to Perth from Carnarvon to begin a degree in Commerce. My Dad, who was always my greatest inspiration and support said to me as he shook his head “Wendy - you should be doing teaching”. I ignored him.
On reflection, he was right, and I was simply avoiding what I knew would be a choice that would require my all. I did not finish my Commerce degree.
Instead I thoroughly enjoyed parenting our daughter and two sons, who played a huge part in helping me to decide that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of other children. 20 years later I enrolled at ECU to complete my Bachelor of Education Early Childhood Studies.
I started university again, on the same day as my 18 year old daughter. Family life changed somewhat but parts of going to university had not – like the joys of searching for a parking bay at the beginning of semester and academic discussions at the Uni cafe over coffee – procrastination perhaps, but I think more accurately these times are an essential ingredient of uni life – meeting up with people, building lifelong friendships and lasting memories, tossing around ideas and learning to think broadly and critically.
Regardless of your age, or the reasons that led you to University - to really succeed at learning, to be inspired to discover, compelled to work harder, to engage and share knowledge with others, requires focus, commitment and a collaborative learning environment. My experience is that ECU absolutely provides this environment.
This learning environment has been shaped and led by dedicated lecturers and tutors, all of whom have an even greater sphere of influence as educators and leaders in the wider community.
The practical placement program scheduled at regular intervals throughout our studies has enabled opportunities to extend our learning and apply evidence based theory to practice. Furthermore, we have been consistently required to reflect on our learning, our practice and our professional conduct.
As I wrote about all of this, I found myself thinking of the clever ECU advertising campaign: I quote “Not just preparing us for this fast, dynamic and unpredictable world but ensuring we thrive in it.” And you know - That’s actually how a university should be.
An internet search of Inspirational teachers will reveal that there are many stories about teachers who have left a lasting legacy way beyond the subjects they have taught. I am proud to say that I have one of those stories in my own family history.
My Grandmother graduated from Claremont Teacher’s College in 1925 and taught for over 40 years around Western Australia. Long after my Grandmother died, my father attended a school reunion at Beaconsfield Primary School, where she had taught. An elderly gentleman who had been a student of hers’ said to him “I want to tell you that as a young boy I had no confidence, few friends and I was struggling with my grades. Your mum helped me to believe in myself. If it wasn’t for her I would not be the man I am today.”
My Grandmother loved to teach, she took the time to build relationships and
she made a difference in the lives of many children. As we take these first steps as graduate teachers and continue to learn from those more experienced and wiser than us, we should be convinced that the influence of a teacher in growing positive, resilient and confident adults cannot be underestimated.
In the words of Carl Jung:
“An understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling.”
This is where my story ends – for tonight.
As new graduates from the Faculty of Education and Arts, we have all received these parchments to signify the end of an important chapter in our lives. I wish you all well as we begin what will hopefully be long and rewarding careers in our chosen professions.
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