Guest editorial

Expecting the unexpected

By Tabbitha Johnston | Jun 12, 2014

When it comes to our local school districts, the news has not always been good in the past few years. However, when you are talking about education, you are talking about young people, and where there is youth there is always a note of hope for the future.

This is the time of year when we bring you pictures of high school graduations, and they always cheer us. They also remind those of us who are older, the caretakers of this community, of the awesome responsibility we have to these young graduates and those coming up after them. This responsibility is to value education and to make sure the schools we have serve students well and inspire pride in the community. We also are reminded of the responsibility we have to leave these young people a clean, healthy planet and to create government policies that will keep their peers and later their children safe, healthy and happy.

With that in mind, we publish the graduation speech prepared this year by Tabbitha Johnston, class president for Oceanside High School East in Rockland, which held its 2014 commencement exercises June 10:

We've all heard the expression "expect the unexpected," and if there is anything that the Class of 2014 knows it's unexpected change. As kindergarteners, we expected to become Eagles at Rockland District Middle School or Clippers at Thomaston Grammar School. As middle schoolers, we expected to become either a Tiger or a Buccaneer.

In fact, we even sat as freshmen at our respective schools not quite knowing the changes we would soon face. Certainly, none of us expected to become a Mariner. Yet here we are, four years later, graduating from the school we never knew would exist. In our travels through school we've all embraced changes that have discreetly prepared us for our future.

When we were in kindergarten, our homework was to memorize the alphabet. That seemed like such an agonizing task! When we were in first grade our homework was to practice addition problems and those were pretty tough. As we progressed to third and fourth grade, we had to memorize our times tables.

How could a teacher do that to us? As we now solve quadratics and write haiku, we wish school was as easy as it used to be. Looking back, it's easier to see that as we jumped through each level of elementary school everything became just a little bit more difficult than it was before. Each homework load became a little bit heavier. The idea was not to torture us, not to make us miserable, but to better prepare us for the next step: middle school.

As we approached fifth and sixth grade, things began to drastically change. Not just in school, but everywhere. In school we went from staying in one classroom all day to switching classrooms about every hour. Instead of 20 minutes of reading a night, we had an hour of work to finish for the next day. However, we did find that not all middle school changes were bad. In fact, when the end of eighth grade approached we actually got to have some input in the classes we would take our first year of high school.

So many unexpected changes were thrown at us during our high school career. You're going to be a baseball player for Georges Valley. Just kidding, you're going to be a baseball player for Oceanside. Imagine yourself as an 11-year-old proudly wearing a Georges Valley sports sweatshirt with the year 2014 embroidered on the sleeve. Of course when you get a new sweatshirt you want to show it off, so what do you do? Wear it to the store with your mom. Across the aisle you see a sweatshirt similar to yours, only it's black and orange with a tiger on it. However, it has the same year embroidered on the sleeve. Little did we know we wouldn't graduate in black and orange or green and white, but together in blue and white.

Perhaps the biggest unexpected change we've been faced with was that we formed such a strong bond with each other. We've embraced change because after all, it's not always bad. We've found the silver lining.

Since I'm the class president, I'm inclined to mention Spirit Week as examples of our class's bond. Remember sophomore year, the first ever Oceanside spirit week, when Calvin rode his horse to school? When Riley dressed up as a lion in the talent show last year? Who could forget the fact that we lost our final Spirit Week to the juniors?

Regardless, two separate classes came together as one and faced every change with courage, a good sense of humor, and a hint of uniqueness. Our class has an interesting way of reacting to change, and these qualities are hard to find amongst a large group of people. We were lucky enough to find them. This said, we all need to hang onto being able to face changes. Being able to laugh when things get tough. But most importantly, being true to ourselves through it all.

As high school comes to a close, we are going to be faced with more changes. Bigger challenges. College, work, the military. In fact, as we leave behind the lives we've known for so long, part with the ones we've grown up with, and start our adult lives we will face work and decisions that we only wish were as easy as high school. These are all tough situations, but if we handle them the way we always have, I have no doubt we will all be successful individuals as we embrace the unexpected.

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