Hillcrest End of Year Speech

Thank you so much.  First of all – congratulations on Lion King!  What an amazing performance!

You know, when I was invited to be the guest speaker today, I started preparing for it by talking to every teenager I could find.  Trying to figure out what I could possibly say that would be of relevance or interest to 13 year olds. And most of the kids I spoke to said “hey Auntie Wandia – don’t worry too much about it, because most of them won’t really be listening to you anyway”!

So… my goal today is to try and prove them wrong – and to hopefully get you to pay attention to at least SOME of what I’m going to say, and if I’m really lucky, to even get you to remember ONE or TWO things from it ☺.

And I’m going to use Hillcrest’s 4 key values Curiosity, Determination, Respect and Independence to shape my speech.

So… what can I tell you about CURIOSITY?

Well – I’ll start by asking a question.  How many of you have ever been asked what you want do you do with your life or what do you want to be when you grow up? And how many of you find that a scary question?

Ok – so I’m here to tell you not to be scared.  Because there are basically two types of people in the world. There are the people who know EXACTLY what they want to do with their lives – and we call these people “woodpeckers”! And you know yourselves, you’re the ones who have known ever since you were 8 years old that all they want to be is a professional football player or an actor – and you can keep focusing on that one thing and put all of your energy there. Like a woodpecker you can keep pecking away at the same place. You have this one goal and you can just keep working towards it.

But then there are the other kind of people – people like me and maybe many of you – who have no real clue what we want to do with our lives.  And they call people like us “hummingbirds”.  Because we go jumping around from place to place – trying a bit of this and a bit of that. And we can wear many hats in one lifetime.  And us hummingbirds are really led by our CURIOSITY. We think something sounds exciting – so we try it.  Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.  But it doesn’t matter too much because there are always new opportunities and new things to be curious about.

In my life I have worked in advertising and banking and in the Kenya national parks. At one point I was importing beauty products, and I’ve advised governments and now I design and sell ladies clothes.  And if you ask me what I’ll be doing five years from now, I really have no idea – and I’m okay with that, because I love the fact that I can keep recreating myself and discovering new things that I’m interested in. Because I keep staying curious.

But there is another reason to be curious that I also want to talk about.  And that’s about the difference between being interesting and being interested. A lot of us work really hard at being interesting – you know, because it’s nice when other people think we’re cool – but the truth is, you can only really be interesting if you are also interested.  So be curious – about ideas, about places, and especially about other people.  Be curious about each other. Notice what other people are doing – what excites them or what matters to them. The most amazing experience might be waiting for you right around the corner – but you might only find out about it if you get curious about what the other people around you are doing.

Second value: DETERMINATION

And now I get to tell you about this amazing book I’m reading called MINDSET. I drive Minke and Saskia crazy because I talk about it all the time! But just yesterday I got an email from a stranger that I recommended it to and she said the book has literally changed her life!  And it’s all about the difference between having a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.  Let me try and explain.

A fixed mindset person cares ONLY about winning.  As far as they are concerned you either win or you loose. A growth mindset person wants to win too, but the most important thing to them is that they keep growing and keep improving. Can you see the difference? If a person with a fixed mindset gets a bad grade they feel ashamed and embarrassed and they want to hide it. But if you have a growth mindset – when you get a bad grade, you might also feel a bit bad, but then you want to go to your classmate who got a better grade or to your teacher, show them your result and say “hey – do you mind showing me where I went wrong?”

And a great example of someone with a growth mindset is Michael Jordan – who’s probably the best basketball player the world has ever seen. But did you know that he was cut from his high school basketball team?  The coach didn’t think he was good enough! And when he said he wanted to play professional basketball the coach laughed at him.  But instead of giving up and feeling sorry for himself, he just tried harder.  And that’s what a growth mindset person does.  They know that with effort and hard work and DETERMINATION they can get better at whatever they set their minds on.  And they know that as long as they improve – then they can never really lose.  

And this is super important for you as you go from year 8 to year 9.  Because maybe you were house captain or the best in the whole prep school at something – but in year 9 suddenly you might find that you’re no longer at the top.  But with a growth mindset and the determination, you will find a way to adapt and keep growing, keep improving.

Third value is RESPECT

So what does respect mean when you’re 13 or 14? And in my conversations with teenagers about this, I realized that it boils down to the very simple rule: treat people the way you want to be treated.  Because to get respect – you also have to give it.  So it’s really important not to be arrogant…. even if you have been the smartest or are the best at something… it really doesn’t help you to think you’re better than everyone else.  

And something I really want you to think about it is how to give yourself enough respect.  As you move into high school you will need to believe in yourself, trust yourself and respect yourself enough not to succumb to peer pressure or social pressure that would get you doing the wrong things.

A 15-year old boy I spoke to said having self-respect is “behaving the same way when you are alone & when no one is watching as you would behave in front of other people”.  And that it’s “measuring your worth by how well you treat other people and how good a person you are, instead of by how many people follow you on snapchat or how many likes your Instagram posts get”.

And the final Hillcrest value is INDEPENDENCE

So, EVERYONE I spoke to said the move from year 8 to year 9 comes with a LOT of change.  You’re going from being the leaders and the biggest kids at school to being the youngest. From being at the top of the food chain to being at the bottom. And suddenly you might not feel so special anymore.  Which can be tough.

Yes there may be less rules in high school and you will get a lot more freedom to make your own choices – but you will also have to deal with the consequences of those choices. And there will be pressure. Pressure to conform. Pressure to act as though everything is okay when inside it might not feel like it.

And trust me it will be a very big change for parents too, and it might be hard for them as you start to establish your INDEPENDENCE and your own identify. So my advice to you AND your parents is – keep talking to each other.  Keep communicating. Keep negotiating. Keep compromising. And most importantly… Keep listening.  Because as much as it might not seem like it sometimes – we ARE all on the same side, and we do want the best for you.

SO I’M GOING TO END WITH A FEW BITS OF ADVICE AND THINGS I HOPE YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOU GET TO YEAR 9

  1. Don’t freak out if friendships start to change – or if your squad starts to act differently. There is going to be a whole new dynamic and lots of new kids – whether you are going to a new school or staying at Hillcrest. So be open to making new friends. And most importantly remember to be kind to each other.
  2. Learn to DO YOU. Don’t worry if you are a woodpecker or a hummingbird. Follow your curiosity. Try out that new hobby or wear that crazy outfit – even if it’s something everyone else thinks is dumb.
  3. Find a mentor, or let a mentor find you. Preferably someone older. Maybe a 6th form student, or a teacher or even someone outside of school. Someone who just seems a bit kinder and a bit wiser than everyone else and someone you connect with. Someone you can go to for advice.  And please – ask for help when you need it. Us old people really aren’t as scary as we look.
  4. Have a growth mindset and don’t be shy about trying your hardest at EVERYTHING, even the things you might not be great at. There is a big difference between being the best and doing your best – and you owe it to yourself to always try and do your best.
  5. And lastly – HAVE FUN!!! You’ve just had this really intense year with common entrance and school applications and everything else that’s been happening, and now you’ve got at least two years before you have to start making big decisions again, and four years before you have to sit another big exam. So use this time to explore and to discover more about YOU and the amazing young adult you are becoming. You’re never going to be in year 9 again, you’re never going to be 14 again…. so ENJOY and make the most of it…. You 100% deserve it!!