The importance of storytelling #coetail


High school leaving ceremonies are always nostalgic affairs, a firm line between childhood and the world beyond. Yet one speech stood out in the hundreds given across the Southern Hemisphere at this time year, the one where the Head Boy is told the week before the ceremony he has cancer and will likely be too sick to deliver his closing remarks.

Those words and sentiments so familiar in graduation addresses, nostalgia for the close-knit relationships formed during school and courage to forge a path into adulthood, were far more poignant when delivered by a teenager confined to a wheelchair by cancer.

Non-New Zealanders might have trouble understanding the significance of the response by the students to the speech a Haka, a Maori war dance, performed for an individual.

The words and moments could have been seen only by those present in the hall.

Yet the leadership had the foresight to video the speech (and the rest of the ceremony) and put it on YouTube. Less than a week later, the video has been viewed over 600,000 times.

A couple of takeaways

Kneel beside our students


Image from Christchurch Boys high school youtube

The non-educators likely missed the Principal of the school quietly kneeling beside the student during the speech, giving words of encouragement and being present. Whether you’re a first year teacher or a principal of a prestigious school, always be humble.

Our job is to make others shine
I often say that the true mark of my teaching isn’t what I can do, but what I can inspire the kids to do. Our students have the capacity for greatness, they need our guidance and support to help them on the way.

Greatness can come in many forms
The speech was beautiful, but so too the student’s response of the Haka so powerfully executed. Moments like this show how far New Zealand has come from the days where children were speaking Maori at school – moments like this make me optimistic for the future of New Zealand.

Likewise the school.

It can be easy for those in educational technology to see traditional institutions and teaching methods as the boogie man to rebel against. Christchurch Boys with its latin motto and teachers in academic regalia for Prize Giving, is more on the traditional end of the education spectrum. Yet the school had the foresight to share a student’s story that needed to be shared and has created a learning environment that enabled those magic moments to occur.

Keep sharing
Children’s voices can be seen and heard through thousands of screens. Lets use this power for good and a force for social good in the world.

from Teaching the Teacher

3 thoughts on “The importance of storytelling #coetail

Add yours

  1. I believe the prize-giving was only recorded this year because they thought the head boy would be unable to attend and they didn’t want him to miss it. So it was for him. As it turned out he came and now we’ve all seen it… really was quite special to watch.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: