Friday, April 20, 2012

Convocation Speech

In a few short moments, we will shift the tassels on our caps from the left to the right, signifying the successful completion of our respective degrees.  But can such a small formality really represent all that each of us has experienced here at Brigham Young University?  Absolutely not.  Some of us are receiving bachelor’s degrees, some, master’s degrees, and some, doctorate degrees.  But whether you’ve attended BYU for two years or ten years, for teaching or for psychology, I am certain that your educational pursuits have had a profound impact on your life.

Brigham Young University has so many incredible benefits for every student and faculty member.  One of the greatest, in my opinion, is the atmosphere of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Here on this beautiful campus, we have attended devotionals and firesides, we have prayed before classes and campus events, we have held church meetings in buildings dedicated to our Heavenly Father, and we have shared our testimonies in countless ways.  Why have we been able to experience both the spiritual and the secular in one place?  The answer is that education and learning are a central component of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Elder David A. Bednar has said (quote) “the overarching purpose of Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness is to provide His spirit children with opportunities to learn…you and I are here upon the earth to prepare for eternity, to learn how to learn, to learn things that are temporally important and eternally essential, and to assist others in learning wisdom and truth.”  (end quote)  It is imperative for all faithful members of the gospel to gain as much education as we can, both in religious learning and in secular learning.  For, as is stated in Proverbs chapter 1, verse 5, “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.”

I think talking about the importance of education to this particular audience may be preaching to the choir.  It’s clear that most, if not all, of the graduates in this room understand the importance of education, or they wouldn’t be here.  So why am I talking about the importance of education now?  We’re about to receive our diplomas that will signify the end of this chapter in our lives.  So are we done?  No!  I believe that our diplomas do not so much signify the end of one chapter in our lives as they do the beginning of another.  Education will not end here for any of us.  Brigham Young taught, (quote) “We do not expect to cease learning while we live on earth; and when we pass through the veil, we expect still to continue to learn and increase our fund of information. That may appear a strange idea to some; but it is for the plain and simple reason that we are not capacitated to receive all knowledge at once. We must therefore receive a little here and a little there.” (end quote)

In addition to President Young’s wisdom, Elder Bednar gives us insights on BYU’s well known adage: “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.”  (quote)  “This expression certainly does not imply that everything necessary for a lifetime of meaningful service can or will be obtained during a few short years on this campus. Rather, the spirit of this statement is that students come to receive foundational instruction about learning how to learn and learning to love learning.”  (end quote)  Each of us has had the opportunity to learn to love learning.  Now as we embark on the next phase of our lives, each of us will have the chance to demonstrate our love of learning in our future endeavors.

For those who will be going on to earn another collegiate degree, be it a second bachelor’s, a master’s, or a doctorate, continuing on in education will be simple.  But what about those who, once they leave this room, will be closing the door on their formal, classroom learning?  To those people, I quote President Thomas S. Monson, who says, “some of the most effective teaching [and learning] takes place other than in the chapel or the classroom.”  There are so many ways that each of us can continue to learn and educate ourselves beyond formal schooling.  We can learn as we excel in the workplace.  We can attend seminars and other forms of continued education in our respective fields.  We can better ourselves in the pursuit of our talents and interests.  And we can do as the Lord directs: “seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”

And, of course, we can all continue to teach.  Prophets throughout the ages have taught us the importance of teaching to every society.  President Brigham Young once said, “A good school teacher is one of the most essential members in society.”  Proverbs chapter 9, verse 9 instructs, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”  Doctrine and Covenants section 88, verses 77 and 78, states, “I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you.”  And President David O. McKay, after whom our college is named, once said, “No greater responsibility can rest upon any man [or woman], than to be a teacher of God’s children.”

This responsibility does not just rest on those in this room who are receiving degrees in teaching or special education.  President Boyd K. Packer maintains that, (quote) “Everybody is a teacher—the leader is a teacher; the follower is a teacher; the counselor is a teacher; the parents are teachers. So we have a responsibility to learn the principles of teaching.”  (end quote)  By President Packer’s logic—whether you want to be an elementary school teacher or a speech therapist, a psychologist or an audiologist—everyone in this room will be a teacher.

Teaching does not always have to involve a set curriculum or a pile of textbooks.  It does not have to be done in a classroom where the learners sit at their desks and the teacher stands at the blackboard.  Teaching can be as simple as helping a child learn to tie shoes or discover the wonders of a musical instrument.  Some will teach in schools, some in the community, some in church, and some at home.  Each teaching opportunity is critical for our own growth as well as for the growth of those who will benefit from our teaching.

The most important thing to remember is to be the best teachers we can be.  Again, the scriptures and living prophets have given us guidance to be effective teachers in all aspects of our lives.  Alma chapter 1, verse 26, demonstrates a community of effective teachers: “for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.”  We must never set ourselves above those whom we teach.  We must all work together for the betterment of all.  And, as President Thomas S. Monson states, “We should ever remember that we not only teach with words; we teach also by who we are and how we live our lives.”  Let us all live in such a way that our examples shine to the world.

Finally, President Boyd K. Packer says that, “to be a good teacher you must also be a willing learner.”  And so we come full circle.  We entered this university to learn, and we have each done so in a variety of ways.  Now it is our time to go forth and serve, to be teachers and learners in all that we do.  May we all strive to increase our understanding throughout our lives, that we may be the best learners and teachers that we can.  Thank you, and congratulations!

Delivered by Arielle Myers (Communication Disorders Bachelor of Science, Suma Cum Laude) at the Convocation of the McKay School of Education, April 20, 2012

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