Let me start by sharing a small story about my first days as a school director at EMIS, or to be more accurate, about my first email as a principal. In the summer of 2016 I faced what I thought at time to be a very complicated task (after two years here at EMIS I have a completely new concept of what complicated really means). The task was to create the weekly schedules. I managed to complete the schedules in an early stage of the summer and was so proud of myself that I decided to immediately send an email to all the teachers. Full of excitement I sat down to write my very first official email to the teachers as their principal. The email went, more or less, like this: "Dear teachers, in this email you may view your personal weekly schedule. The full weekly schedule can be viewed through the attached excel shit". Pressed send.
Not more than two minutes later I received a text message from Ms Shani saying 'I am not sure you meant to write excel shit like you did". I was shocked. More than that, I was deeply embarrassed. The only thing I managed to do is to send another email to teachers apologizing for the obvious mistake and stating that at least now they know what I really think of excel. After that I thought I would just hide somewhere for a year or two. I am glad I didn't.
Why am I sharing this story with you, which clearly is not my proudest moment? Firstly, in order for you to know your English is not so bad. I am sure some of you fear this challenge, so please know that in this room and even on this stage there are many people who faced and are still facing the exact same challenge. It is hard and demands a lot of work, but it is possible to overcome.
More than that I wish to tell you something about community, our community. The main thing that I remember from this mistake is the reaction of my staff. I was absolutely sure they would hold it against me, that I will start the year as the principal who sent "shit" in his very first email, but it wasn't like that at all. Although there were probably some very justifiable jokes on the matter, the teachers gave me the benefit of the doubt. They judged me for who I am and for the essence I brought beyond my mistakes. Moreover, they gave me the feeling they know I can improve, that I can learn and do better. You might say, they didn't have any choice rather than accepting me as I was, but accepting and embracing are two very different things. Here at EMIS I don't only see acceptance, I see embracement of differences, of mistakes and most importantly of the ability to change.
The theme of this year is communities and I believe that a community is initially defined by the borders of its embracement. This is the way communities include and exclude members and values. The motto of EMIS "the school for change" may sound extremely big and far away, but it is actually little. It starts by deciding to embrace peoples' differences and desire to change. The belief that people can change is the very core educational concept, without it there is no growth. At EMIS it is also our foundation and our practice.
Today we are all sitting here together hoping to be embraced by our community, by our peers and friends. Some of you, staff and students, are new to this place and may very quickly find out you don't want to hold on to the image of the person you presented as yourself on your first days here. Some of you came back and might wish others will see you are not precisely the same person you were when you left. I ask you to allow yourself to change and embrace the changes in your friends. Please remember to give people the benefit of the doubt and believe in them. Don't hold on to old images, views and experiences. Embrace others as you yourself wish to be embraced.
Embracing differences and changes in us and in others is the one thing that makes our community unique. Hence, it is the only thing I feel I must say to you directly. All the rest can be probably presented well in some excel sheet.