I believe that every one of you can do every thing that we learn in school. You’re all capable and you’re all good enough. Believe in yourself and know that you can do it. That’s the first step and often the most difficult step, but without that belief in yourself, you won’t accomplish anything.
You’re good enough and you deserve it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Humans are really good at discovering patterns. It’s how our minds make sense of the world. Not only do we see patterns in nature (many of which don’t really exist) but we also like to think up patterns of our own. Those patterns, even though they don’t come directly out of the world, can tell us a whole lot about it.
Today we’ll begin exploring one of my favorite patterned creations. And we’ll practice the mindset that all great mathematicians have: look for patterns everywhere.
When you were in preschool you just “knew” that 5 came after six. You just knew that the color of that car was green. You just “knew” that the name of that shape was an oval.
But then something changes. Now you can’t just look at 1/4 plus 2/3 and “know” what the answer is. You have to figure it out. You have to stop, maybe draw a picture, maybe think about the fractions in different ways, and find the answer.
Too often we think that math is about “knowing” things. But it’s really about figuring them out. And you can all do that.
You’ve never been to the rainforest, but through reading about it and studying it you can experience it in a way that’s just as rich. In fact, maybe it’s better.
If you were to go to the rain forest you’d just be in another place. It would be neat and a whole lot different than Colorado, but you can’t see everything that makes the rainforest the rainforest in just one part of the rainforest. When you study the rainforest, however, you live in the world of ideas and can see everything.
We’re lucky to live in a country that values education enough to make it free for all people. We do this because we know that you will be tomorrow’s leaders and visionaries, and we want our leaders to be educated. We think you’re an investment in the future.
Everyone in our community pays money so you can be sitting in this classroom, and they expect you to learn as much as you possibly can. Don’t let them down.
My aunt has a saying: “Normal is the setting on a dishwasher.”
The world is too big and rich and interesting for everyone to act the same way. We need risk takers, nonconformists, and iconoclasts to show us other ways to be in the world. We need people to follow the beat of their own drum, so we can get a bigger picture of the world and see it again in new ways.
Don’t dismiss people who do things differently than you. Listen to them. Learn from them. Try to see the world through their eyes.
Pay attention! To your teachers, your parents, and each other, but mostly pay attention to the world around you. Know that the world wants you to know it. And the world wants to delight you in learning about it. No matter what you see in the world (a spinning top, a baby sock, a half-drawn map), you can find meaning and delight in it.
There’s more unknown in the world than known, so the curious mind will never, ever be bored.
I’m glad we’ve started reading Charlotte’s Web. Some of you have probably read it before, and some people might say it’s too easy for fourth graders to read.
But E.B. White is a master! We can learn so much from him about good writing. If we pay attention, we’ll see that White avoids all nonsense in his prose. If we read closely, we’ll notice that he knows exactly what he’s doing.
If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader. And you have to be an intense reader: someone who’s always looking for new ways of saying something we know is true.
All that we learn in school was discovered by humans. Even when we study the natural world we do so through human senses and understanding. We study texts that other humans have created.
So it is all available to you. No matter your gender or skin color or where your family came from, it all belongs to you. We’re all human and we’re all capable of understanding and knowing the world. Don’t be afraid to dive into it and make it your own.
We often go on with our lives like they’re the only possible normal for us. We often lack the imagination to see that different lives are possible. That a different world is possible.
What we need is people like you to show us that a different reality is possible. You can accept the notion that only certain people can get ahead, that there’s not enough for everybody, and that no one can be trusted, or you can use your imagination to create a different way of life.