Editor’s note: This is Middle School Principal Bill Wolf-Tinsman’s 2021 Continuation speech, delivered on June 1, 2021, to the Colorado Academy Eighth Grade class.

What a year! I would like to begin by sharing my appreciation:

  • Appreciation to this faculty for being caring, professional, selfless, and flexible in rising to the occasion to meet the needs of our Colorado Academy Middle Schoolers. I couldn’t be more proud to be associated with this school and this group of educators!
  • Appreciation for this group of parents—who knew that we could rocket from remote learning, to hybrid learning, to in-person learning, at the drop of a hat? (Who knew 12 months ago what “hybrid” learning even was?) Your partnership in supporting us each day through the many twists and turns has been stellar and appreciated. I know many educators and schools, but none that has experienced the level of support that CA has received from all of you. It matters. Thank you.
  • Appreciation for all of our students who have done their very best under trying circumstances. Whether we were learning hybrid, remote, or in person, our kids brought their “A game” to school.

Continuation message to students

At Continuation, I referenced three sets of song lyrics to encourage our students to think deeply about this year and how each has grown. Because I believe it is potentially a good message for all of the students, I will reprise those thoughts here:

Message 1: You can only control your response

“Sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug; sometimes you’re the Louisville Slugger, and sometimes you’re the ball.” (Mary Chapin Carpenter) 

There is no question that none of us would have chosen to share this year with COVID-19. No way, no how. Given a choice, we would have left the masks at home and come to school as we used to do. But you know what? Sometimes we are the “bug.” We don’t get to choose. Life happens in wonderful, and sometimes unpleasant, ways over which we have no control. What we do get to choose, and this is important, is how we respond to the situation. In this case, our community responded with compassion and a “can do” spirit. Every day, students did their work, made new friends, tried new arts, played sports, and “leaned in” to growing up to be a little bit more resilient, a little bit more flexible, and a little bit more skilled.

Message 2: Life is much bigger than just the classroom

I’ll be there for you/ when the rain starts to pour/ I’ll be there for you/ like I’ve been there before/ I’ll be there for you/ ’cause you’re there for me too.” (The Rembrandts)

Being a “Rocky” or being a “Mustang” created new opportunities for relationships to flourish. Moreover, true friendship is about much more than sunny days. It is about how we treat and support each other when the “the rain starts to pour.” I believe that our students have learned that true friendship endures the ups and downs of Middle School, transcends time, and is the foundation upon which a meaningful life is grounded.

Message 3: Character is ALL

“Hold the door, say ‘please,’ say ‘thank you,” don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie, I know you got mountains to climb, but always stay humble and kind.” (Tim McGraw)

The kids this year (and every year!) have heard me say many times that it matters most what sort of person each is when no one is looking. As a person are you:

  • Humble?
  • Kind?
  • Empathetic?
  • A good friend to others?
  • Inclusive?
  • Honorable in word and deed?

School years, maybe particularly this one, have given all of us—students, teachers and parents—lots of opportunity to practice these virtues. We may not have been perfect in our efforts, but there is an awful lot to be proud of.

My wish for all of us is that we get to have some down time this summer to be with family and friends, to enjoy a good book, and to return in the fall, recommitted to this learning community and to our efforts to support students to be the very best each can be. Be safe, enjoy the summer, and let me know if I can be supportive in any way.