Today marks my thirteenth and final Opening Convocation as a student here at Randolph. Looking back, 13 years is a pretty long time. When I started here in Kindergarten, my parents were in their thirties, YouTube was just released, and "Yeah" by Usher was number one on the radio.
Aside from all of the academic subjects we learn at Randolph, we learn a lot of life skills and lessons. For example—how it is okay to make mistakes.
When I was in Lower School, I had Mrs. Jones as my art teacher. On the top of her whiteboard, she had written, “A mistake is just an opportunity for a rapid design change.” She told us that every time we make a mistake—whether it be on an art project or anything else life throws our way—we need to embrace it rather than worry. Instead, the mistake should be used as a catalyst for a new idea and a new final product.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes.
One I remember in particular was in Middle School Art. After a week of hard work, I finally finished my masterpiece—a ceramic chicken head. However, it didn’t stay intact for very long. As I was walking to turn it in, I tripped over myself, and fell flat on my face—and my chicken. My art teacher for that year—Mrs. Dumoulin—reminded me of what Mrs. Jones would always say. Determined to fix my chicken, I decided to start over. I’m a pretty clumsy person and long story short my chicken got destroyed another three times and I had to remake it an additional four times. Every time the ceramic chicken was destroyed, I kept rebuilding it. Every time I started over, my design changed. The final product looked nothing like how I imagined it to be.
Instead of worrying about how my chicken would end up looking or how it got destroyed four times, I decided to focus on how my mistakes could influence a new final product.
Look around at the classmates you’re sitting with right now. Although some people will join you, and some may leave, these are the people you will be with for the rest of your time here at Randolph. Twenty-two people from my Kindergarten class are still at Randolph with me today. Although we’re seniors, and are considered to be the leaders of the School, everyone single one of us in the Class of 2017 have made mistakes before.
A few days ago, I asked my classmates to reminisce on their past mistakes. I got answers all the way from bad haircuts in 6th grade to sticking tweezers in an electrical outlet as a freshmen—which you should never do no matter what. From falling down the stairs in front of the entire school at a basketball game, to throwing a gym bag down the stairs and hitting Coach Smalley in the face. From a girl walking into the boy’s locker room and not realizing her mistake for a while, to another girl scoring points for the opposing team. Accidents happen and people make mistakes.
We, as students, have a lot of pressure from our parents, society, and even ourselves to not make mistakes. Don’t interpret this speech as an excuse to make as many mistakes as possible; rather, leave here with a mindset of, “Hey, I made a mistake. I’m going to embrace it and figure out how can I create a new route to success.” I’ll leave you all with a quote from Miley Cyrus, or Hannah Montana if you find her more inspirational than Miley: “Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days.” I hope everyone has a great year and welcome back to school. I can’t finish my speech with out one last thing… a selfie.
Photos from the Class of 2005 Maypole with the Class of 2017 and looking back on Coleman's phone.
You can read Coleman's remarks from Upper School Awards Day here.