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Dr. Grauer's Column - A Tale of Two Villages: Your Epic Journey Through High School

High school is a pivotal adventure that shapes our future profoundly. Here, from our Annual Matriculation Ceremony, is an insightful reflection on the key to a wild and precious life!

A Tale of Two Villages: Your Epic Journey Through High School

The Grauer School welcomed our 33nd 9th grade class into high school in our unique annual Matriculation Ceremony this week. This column presents Dr. Grauer's address to the 9th grade matriculants. 

Greetings, Class of 2027 (and all readers reminiscing to that amazing time of life)! Congratulations on your matriculation into high school.

The Grauer School's 9th Grade class during their Matriculation ceremony - October 24, 2023

Why is high school such a big deal? 
Age 14 or 15 is the start of the search for meaning. It is the Super Bowl of self-discovery. Up till now, life kinda played you—you went along for the ride. But now, you get to be the quarterback, calling your own plays.

Wisdom Across Time and Space, from Encinitas, Southern California
You're not the first to walk this path. All major faiths and philosophies through most of history have talked about coming of age. The Apostle Paul said, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." In Judaism, there's Bar and Bat Mitzvah—“Today I am a man,” or “…a woman.” With rites of passage, you basically get your spiritual driver's license. And not long after that, you may get a California driver’s license—I hope in that order! 

At The Grauer School, this year, everyone in our freshman class will study the world’s religions, and I want to mention why. We're not just studying old texts and dusty traditions. We're diving into the real quest—the search for meaning. All semester you will be discussing this search.

It is your search! 
Rites of passage vary widely across cultures and time periods. To kickstart this adventure right here in Encinitas, here are some other coming-of-age and rite of passage practices, like the above two. 

Dr. Grauer speaks to The Grauer School's 9th grade matriculants - October 24, 2023

Diverse Journeys to Adulthood
Around the world, cultures have crafted unique and significant rites of passage that symbolize the transition from childhood to adulthood. While we can't fully grasp the depth of these experiences from a mere description, let's scan a few:

  1. In the Satere-Mawe community of Brazil, young men participate in a ritual involving bullet ants, recognized for their intense sting. This is not just about enduring pain—it's a testament to courage, endurance, and community support.
  2. The Hamar of Ethiopia have a cow jumping ritual where a young man demonstrates agility and determination by running across the backs of cattle.
  3. Young Maasai Warriors in Kenya and Tanzania undertake a journey away from their community, embracing challenges like lion hunting, which signify their readiness to protect and serve their community.
  4. The Umhlanga of Swaziland, also known as the Reed Dance, is a week-long celebration of unity and womanhood where young girls gather reeds and present them to the Queen Mother. 
  5. Vision Quests, found in some Native American traditions, involve a spiritual journey into nature, often alone for three days and nights with almost no gear. It's a time of reflection and connecting deeply with the earth. 
  6. At Grauer, while our rites of passage might seem different—like walking through a drum circle—they symbolize our values, challenges, and the community we're all a part of.

Wise leaders all over the world have all arrived at this same finding as we have here in Encinitas: when kids come of a certain age, everything changes. It’s like they are entering a new village with a different life, a life of purpose.

The Emotional Rollercoaster
High school can be a whirlpool of emotions that challenge you to define your real self and to act on your real values. From crushing tests you studied half the night for, to actual crushes. I understand—there can be tough tradeoffs, and maybe some pain, loss, or failure! When you fail, it will no longer be on your parents to bail you out, or to decide what you should do. It’s on you now, and you are up to it.

Tradeoffs! I once had to quit the high school track team to follow my passion for surfing. I had to confront my coaches and teammates, but I honored my intrinsic motivation, I persevered in pursuing what I was called to do and now, 50 years later, I am still surfing.

Facing change can require all our courage. Let me share a tale of two villages to illustrate this.

A Tale of Two Villages 
Earlier this month, I visited the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco where a devastating earthquake had affected many villages. There I witnessed two contrasting responses to the calamity. In one village at the top of the mountains, the community banded together—people were working diligently to rebuild, indigenous Berber children were playing and even engaging in creative pursuits like art. It was heartwarming to see their resilience, smiling faces, and unity in the face of adversity.

Conversely, in a nearby village lower down the mountain, I observed a pervasive sense of despair. Many sat waiting, hoping for external aid or unsure of how to commence the rebuilding process. Both of these reactions are of course human. Despair and inaction can sometimes be a natural response to trauma and shock for some, just as much as resilience and immediate action can be for others.

The point is not to judge one village over the other but rather to highlight the power of mindset. While both villages faced the challenges of a major earthquake, their responses were informed by numerous factors—the first village was indeed more remote, more dependent on living directly off the land. Nevertheless, my travels and observations reminded me that teamwork paired with a positive mindset make a difference in how we face challenges. Throughout high school, your mindset will make a powerful difference.

Senior Teacher Clayton Payne and Grauer students Raina and Kendall lead off the Matriculation ceremony with a drum circle - October 24, 2023

Clayton Payne, thank you for leading this great, annual ceremony. I could not be more honored than to be here in support. In thanks, I would like to donate to the religions class this great painting created by a child from earthquake-affected Morocco.

Matriculants! Will you be the captain of your ship, through storms and calms, or drift along waiting to be told what to do? When you get an unfair or tough blow, are you going to work harder to fix it yourself, or wait for others while blaming the teacher or class…or?

Before high school, you never thought much about being the captain of your life. You're going to be challenged in the next 4 years, sure, but you'll also discover the most amazing things about yourself and the world.

From here on you will have to ask yourself: What core values will be the most essential for me? Will I draw upon my intrinsic motivation and curiosity--or will I default to my anxieties and limitations?

I want to sum up with this: Universal core values are the greatest gift The Grauer School or any school can ever give you. They will answer the question about which of those two villages you live in. Your teachers will be asking core values questions like this every week in class. “Will I let compassion and perseverance triumph over my fears and the unfairness I find?” You will be asked again in our Core Values Portfolio groups. Your answers are our version of enduring ant stings, cow jumping, lion hunting, or setting aside childish things.

Grauer 9th Grade students Siena, Jolie, and Nalani preparing a dish for their Health Class Cook-Off - October 25, 2023

The Grauer village thrives on core values. Our alumni are testaments to their lifelong impact. Study these values and you'll create lifelong bonds. Remember, you can always lean on me; I love hearing what you are going through as do your teachers. We’re more than a school. We are a community for support.

So happy matriculation, and good luck deciding which of the two villages you want to live in. I now send you off with just three bits of guidance for this great, life passage to greater happiness and success: One, face this passage into high school and adulthood courageously! Two, consider often the great, eternal question from Mary Oliver, an American poet, a notion that has brought me enormous joy: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" And three: make your bed every day.

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Photos for Dr. Grauer's Column

The Grauer School's 9th Grade class during their Matriculation ceremony - October 24, 2023

Dr. Grauer speaks to The Grauer School's 9th Grade matriculants - October 24, 2023

Senior Teacher Clayton Payne and Grauer students Raina and Kendall lead off the Matriculation ceremony with a drum circle - October 24, 2023

Grauer 9th Grade students Siena, Jolie, and Nalani preparing a dish for their Health Class Cook-Off - October 25, 2023

Fearless Teaching® Book
by Dr. Stuart Grauer

Fearless Teaching® is a stirring and audacious jaunt around the world that peeks—with the eyes of one of America’s most seasoned educators–into places you will surely never see on your own. Some are disappearing. It is a bit like playing hooky from school. You will travel to the Swiss Alps, Korea, Navajo, an abandoned factory in Missouri, the Holy Land, the Great Rift Valley, the schools of Cuba, the ocean waves, and the human subconscious—oh, and Disneyland.

There you will find colorful stories for the encouragement, inspiration, and courage needed by educators and parents. Fearless Teaching is not a fix-it book—it is more a way of seeing the world and the school so that you can stay in your work and focus on what matters most to you.

"Grauer’s writing reminds us that Great Teaching, singular, rare, unusual, is something that should be sought after and found. Thank you.”
Richard Dreyfuss, Actor, Oxford scholar, founder of The Dreyfuss Initiative

Click here to order Fearless Teaching® today

Dr. Grauer's Column: Archive of Past Columns

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Think of the yes people in your lives. They are the ones that make you feel empowered, accepted, and validated. Of all the yes people you could ever ask for, teachers might be the most important, and we tend to appreciate them for our whole lives.

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Step into the heart of the Holy Land with students bridging seemingly impossible divides. From celebrating in Jerusalem to flying peace kites in the West Bank, witness their quest to understand and process conflict.