Alan Lesgold’s opening remarks focused upon the change that graduates need to be aware of as they enter their respective fields, and how they might not only have to change jobs multiple times, but possibly careers, over the course of their working lives.
Alan Lesgold's Graduation Remarks
I would like to suggest to you that given the rate of change in education, what we have tried to do in the programs you have just completed is both to prepare you to do professional work now and to prepare you to reinvent yourself and learn on your own throughout your careers. That way, even as education changes in the coming years, you can provide the organizations in which you work with both up-to-date professional excellence and the accumulating wisdom of experience. Every degree we grant is not only a component of the license to practice but also recognition of your ability to continue learning on your own.
Technology affords the opportunity to place more of the initial learning of new concepts and ways of thinking in the realm of individual experience, making schooling the obvious time for students to work together on projects that allow new knowledge to be exercised and thereby refined. Chances are you encountered some limited mention of this change in one or another course. At the same time, it is quite likely that you will need to reshape everything you have learned if this change becomes more substantial and more pervasive in the future. Think how schooling could be different, how different out-of-school supports might be needed, and how post-secondary educational logistics will need to change. You have a lot of learning ahead of you.
Now, that’s only one change, produced in part by the information age and by the research and practical experimentation of the most adventurous of our profession. Other changes will be produced by economic forces. Education is labor-intensive, and the labor comes from people who spend years learning their roles and hence need to be compensated for that investment. Because education has lagged other sectors in becoming more productive, it has become more expensive. William Baumol has suggested that there are two ways we could deal with this. Our economy could simply expand so much that we have the wealth to tolerate the faster-rising costs of education. Or, we could make education more efficient. Right now, only the second course seems viable, and that too means new learning for all of us about how to create schools and universities that more efficiently leverage the wonderful people who comprise them.
Rethinking the role of school and out-of-school learning. Making education more efficient economically. Solving assessment problems that will allow more pluralism in education. These and other problems will be addressed by our most innovative colleagues, including some of you. All of us, though, will need to follow that work and keep reinventing ourselves to leverage the changes that research produces and also to respond to the social forces that require major rethinking.
Wendell McConnaha's Graduation Speech
The graduation address was given by Wendell McConnaha, director of Falk School, a K–8 laboratory school affiliated with the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. The following is a particular excerpt from McConnaha's speech that he felt was important, in which he had to find a common theme that would be equally meaningful to hundreds of graduates in dozens of different fields.
Whether you are going into a classroom, training room or university office I have come to believe that there are three crucial leadership elements that will determine your success or failure within that setting. The three components I have identified are effective communication, adaptation to change, and awareness of self.
Let me begin with communication. A few weeks ago, one of our interns was supervising recess duty. Two kindergarten students approached him. “We’re bored and don’t know what to do.” The intern looked around the playground and noticed a student playing by himself with a large playground ball. "Why don’t you play catch with Patrick?” he suggested. The two students simply stared at him. “What’s wrong?” he asked. The students responded, “How are we supposed to throw Patrick?”
To be an effective communicator requires a clear message and an equally clear understanding of what was intended. The intern was clear in his message. The students were clear in their understanding. However, somewhere in the middle the intent became lost.
Various studies of successful schools have determined that a key factor to their success is an effectual principal. Further studies have identified the key factors that make a strong school leader. Although much of the success is impacted by the size, location and type of school; having a leader who is an effective communicator is a consistent requirement across all types and styles of schools.
Communication, as we all know, is much more than the spoken word. Making time to listen to others when all you want to do is finish what you are working on conveys availability. Never allowing yourself to have a bad day, even when things away from work are causing stress, conveys consistency. Treating everyone with respect, even those you like less than others, conveys fairness. Knowing your students, colleagues or those you supervise and what they are dealing with away from work; then providing them the support they need conveys compassion.
When I was principal of the University of Chicago Laboratory School I was approached by a former student. He asked, “Remember the time we talked about . . ?” and referenced a conversation I had no recollection of whatsoever. I then did what years of training had taught me to do. I lied. “Of course I remember.” With tears in his eyes he said, “What you told me that day completely turned my life around.”
Another person might say, “Wow it is so cool that I had that kind of impact through my words!” However, I thought if I can’t remember a conversation that for this young man was a positive life changing event; how many times have I used a sarcastic remark or offhand comment? In an attempt to be funny or glib how many times have I communicated with a student, colleague or someone I supervise in away that negatively impacted that individual? Those are the communications that others will not bother to share with you. Our communication becomes the image of who we are. It is the impression that others take from us. It is quickly established and difficult to alter once that communication has been received.