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For the principal, how to proceed in a tough world

AHS Principal Janger

Matthew Janger, principal of Arlington High School, presented these remarks at commencement on Saturday, June 4, 2022.

Welcome to the 156th annual graduation ceremony for Arlington High School. My role today is to begin this event with acknowledgment, gratitude and (hopefully) a few words of wisdom. 

First, we acknowledge that the Town of Arlington is located on the ancestral lands of the Massachusett Tribe, the tribe of indigenous peoples from whom the Colony, Province and Commonwealth have taken their names. We pay our respects to the history of the Massachusett Tribe and their descendants who inhabit the historic Massachusett territories today. 

Thanks to ...

We have so much to be thankful for today. We have come together here after four years of change and growth. 

Please join me in thanking:

  • Parents, guardians, and family members who support you;
  • Our teachers and paraprofessionals who have taught, lead, and cared to help you grow and learn;
  • The administrative team, Mr. DiLoreto, Ms. Tivnan, Mr. McKnight and Mr. McCarthy who step in with support and leadership to keep us running;
  • Our custodial and facilities crew who have put in triple time this year cleaning, moving, repairing, moving, cleaning and repairing again and again;
  • The army of teacher and student volunteers who have led speech contests, set up filming, made boxes for the diploma and so much more today; and
  • Amanda Donohue and Annalise Abdelnour, the senior class and yearbook advisers who took communication to new levels.
  • Special thanks to two heroes who are departing their role:
  • Pescatore who will be leading her last last blast tonight. It will take an army of parent volunteers to replace her
  • And, please, a round of applause for Ms. Begin, who has taken on AHS graduation as her personal mission. She is ready to hand off her instruction manual to a team of replacements. 

Before you leave, I want to revisit some of the messages we have given you, and maybe make some clarifications. 

Over the last four years, this class has had more than its share of disruptions, between the disruptions of remote learning, masking, construction and world events. We have talked to you a lot about safety, about engaging with world events, about academic achievement and about building relationships. Sometimes, I worry, we may give the wrong message . . . So allow me to clarify.

Practice safety without fear. There are many scary things that can happen, but we still live in a safe community. When we put on sunscreen or wear a seat belt, we don’t visualize terrible consequences. But there are a lot of folks trying to scare you into safe behavior. Please, be safe, make good decisions, because it’s wise, but you don’t need to focus on the fear.

Practice empathy without absorbing trauma. We want you to engage with the world, to care about others. There are so many terrible things happening and we care and want to help. It’s OK to care, and try to help, without sharing in the trauma. We want to be helpers, not to become victims ourselves. 

Seek growth without worrying about recognition or achievement. This is a tough one in schools. We focus a lot on our achievements, but we should focus on the joy and value of learning and growth. It is a paradox (a puzzle) that you will learn more, go farther and have more joy, if you focus on the journey and the challenge, rather than the outcome. 

Never argue online

Find connection without worrying about approval. We want you to connect, to have relationships, to find community. This is another puzzle, because we do this best by focusing on ourselves. Be yourself and find those that connect with you. Offer non-judgmental connection to others. Don’t worry about the likes or dislikes. And, never argue with anyone online. 

* Practice safety without focusing on fear;

* Practice empathy without absorbing trauma:

*Seek growth without worrying about recognition or achievement; and

* Find connection without worrying about approval.

Congratulations on reaching this milestone. Go forth and be yourself, grow, enjoy. 

This expression of opinion at the 2022 Arlington High School commencement was published Monday, June 6, 2022.

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