ISB’s Class of 2011 poses in front of the iconic Tiantan
June is high school graduation season in Beijing, and every weekday in June we’re bringing you coverage of Beijing’s international high school graduations. Check out the ceremonies we’ve covered so far here and stay tuned each weekday at 10am for more.
ISB (International School of Beijing)
ISB celebrated their high school graduation on June 4th, with 146 students from 22 countries. Teachers and parents packed the ISB auditorium for the standing room-only affair.
ISB’s Class of 2011 selected the theme of "yue" (越) meaning "to surpass or exceed" for the event. "Yue" embodies the students’ continuous pursuit of excellence, hoping their class will soar into a better and brighter day than the last. A specially-prepared vanilla cake decorated with the names of every graduate was served at a post-ceremony reception on campus.
See more pictures from the important day here.
Student speakers Daniel Plafker and Melissa Powers spoke at the ceremony, which can be viewed online at the ISB website by clicking here (Daniel’s speech can be viewed at 00:08:15 and Melissa’s at 00:11:30).
Melissa’s speech is excerpted below:
Students and staff, family and friends, acquaintances and total strangers — in a word, hello. My name is Melissa Powers, and I am your second student speaker this afternoon.
Today’s graduation marks the end of the eleven and a half year relationship that I have had with ISB. I can’t pretend that all of the experience I’ve had here was good — I’m not really sure anyone in this room can say that — but it was an experience, and that, I guess, is what counts.
When I first arrived here — here being the 3rd floor of the Beijing United hospital downtown — at an exceptionally obnoxious six years old, it never really occurred to me that my parents were paying for a world class education. Having lived overseas previously, an international school didn’t sound like anything special, and, maybe narrow-mindedly so, I spent most of my academic career under that impression.
Perhaps I was vaguely aware of claims like "best school in China" or "ranked high in Asia" thanks to my fiercely school-spirited peers, but having never had another education to compare this to, I had to ask myself what "this" is.
In a slightly less rambly way — what does the ISB education amount to? My immediate response to that question was to check a primary source — the ISB mission statement. Clocking in at a mere 53 words, it states that the goal of ISB is to "educate and inspire students to reach their unique potential and contribute positively to society."
Despite the incredible clause confusion in that sentence, it’s an admirable sentiment, and I honestly do believe that our school tries to make it a reality. For the education of students is not confined to scholarly pursuits. I hate stating the obvious as much as the next person, but I’ll probably say this again at some point only because it’s so … true. And I think that personal growth always has its place as an accidental afterthought in a rigorously academic environment such as ours. ISB attempts to help you reach your unique potential as much outside of class as inside of class. I would say that almost everyone is involved in after-school activities.
I don’t believe that a school would be complete without student interaction and participation, and it’s fairly obvious, I think, to see how those kinds of activities could help you find a path in life. A hobby or a career. Same goes with classes, but a bit less obviously.
I don’t need to explain how history helps you analyze past events, or how biology teaches you that you can get salmonella from cookie dough, or how every class will, at some point, lend you some kind of applicable skill for later life.
I don’t need to explain any of that, even though I just did. You pick up learning skills, you pick up social skills, you pick up patience and frustration and learn how to deal with procrastination. In many cases, we learn that we haven’t learned how to deal with procrastination. But it’s fine, as long as we do the learning bit.
Your unique potential is not a B+ on that essay, because I think most of the grade got that too. Your unique potential is getting that B+ and turning it into an A, or getting that B+ and publishing it in the China Daily, or getting a B+ and forgetting about it because you understand that it’s really not that important in the grand scheme of things — I can’t even describe how many unique potentials there are because by definition I would keep you here until next week, and I’d really prefer to graduate today.
Cause, after the relief of college acceptances and the impending departure from our proverbial bird nests, it could be a little disconcerting to think that everything you have worked for in the past few years is suddenly kind of nothing. All those late nights working on IAs or EEs or SATs or other acronyms, suddenly suddenly irrelevant.
But, I guess the magic is in overlooking the original significance of those items. Your extended essay, not as requirement, but as a really cool experience writing an in-depth research paper. Your internal assessments, not as the IBO’s attempts to make you suffer, but as a good gauge of how fast you can type the night before its due.
Don’t leave this room thinking that today is one of the most important days of your lives. Symbolic, maybe, but not significant. If you really think so, I’m not sure ISB has done its job correctly. Because the purpose of an education to for you to rise above it. Your big accomplishment is not leaving your school work behind, but the genuine doing-school-work parts, if you know what I mean.
If the school has helped you find something you love, you want to pursue; if the school has taught you any life skills at all, which, I really really hope it has … then, it’s done all right. We’ve all done all right, I guess, and that’s what counts. Because the education of students is not confined to scholarly pursuits. I told you I would say it again.