“To find your own way is to follow your bliss.” Joseph Campbell
This past week I have had the supreme pleasure of witnessing a parade of grade nine eminent person speeches, each of which utilized a unique perspective and inspiration of creation that is the mark of a supportive cohort of learners and has set a remarkable tone for the grade ten’s presentations next Wednesday evening. As the grade nines are challenged to speak about the life of their chosen person from the perspective of a someone who would have known their eminent their subject, a crucial brainstorming decision each of them faces is finding the most compelling perspective of narration. This year has been especially exciting as we have witnessed the following:
- A fevered argument between the Dukes of Florence and Lion who each argued opposing sides of Niccolo Machiavelli’s legacy and legitimacy.
- Florence Nightingale‘s mother discussing the various means of disappointment her daughter’s career choice of nursing brought her.
- Testimony on the tumultuous, but always respectful relationship FDR shared with Winston Churchill.
- A touching biography of Annie Leibovitz narrated by the lens of the camera that captured John Lennon’s final afternoon, and sold millions of Rolling Stones.
- A vivid narration of escape as related by a slave freed alongside Harriet Tubman on the Underground Railroad.
- A young girl’s dying words in the arms of Mother Theresa.
- The story of Craig Kielburger’s first visit to an African village, as told by a young boy (or girl?) in the village.
- A seething business-biography of Walt Disney narrated by his former partner (and creator of Mickey Mouse).
- Mohammad Ali’s childhood friend casually relating his often-interrupted lifelong friendship with Cassius Clay.
- Isaac Newton’s greatest exploits described from the perspective of the apple which hit him that fateful day.
- A telling of Jules Verne’s feisty childhood through the eyes of his father, who never quite accepted his son’s career choice.
- A heartfelt letter from Princess Zhara to her father, spiritual leader Aga Khan.
- An argument between a teacher giving a lesson about Hellen Keller to the constant interruptions of a blind student lamenting who resents her connection to her historical counterpart.
- And a tale rich in sibling-rivalry related by Greek poetess Sappho’s brother.
It was great to see so many of the grade nines taking risks with 8 – 10 minute speeches (a daunting prospect in itself to many people much older than 14) in so many different ways. At the conclusion of each address, the class would discuss the speaker’s successes and ways they could improve in future speeches. Many of the grade tens were able to offer personal connections in their constructive criticism, and at the end of speeches today, once all fifteen grade nines had completed this most formal of the program’s rights of passage, the class recognized the camaraderie such feats establish in a learning environment. As the grade nine’s have completed this dry run at the project’s speech, the grade tens look ahead at a journey that began roughly this time last year, sitting in the same chairs in room 204.
Over the Remembrance Day holiday many of the grade tens posted drafts of their speeches on their blogs, and with co-operation forged under the weight of being faced with the same daunting task, the responses were thoughtful, gracious and constructive. Next Wednesday evening, one senses, each of them will not be addressing the library from behind a podium on their own, but with the support of their classmates, parents, teachers and alumni who each share in the celebration of their achievement.
So while I wish the grade tens well on their final weekend of preparation, I congratulate the grade nines on the week they have produced. Each of you has achieved something of which you can be proud, and laid the groundwork for not only this year’s Night of the Notables, but next.