Tips for Ninth-Graders

Ron Kim, Head of School
Mr. Thompson has put together a very thoughtful plan for the day, and I am grateful for everything he has done to make this a great day for you.

I have a brief story and some thoughts to share before I turn this back to Mr. Thompson.

The story goes like this:

A traveler passed by a group of elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.

He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.
Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before?

All of us—students, parents, teachers—all of us have our mental ropes that hold us back because we remember that it felt like a failure once before, and we can forget that we are bigger now and more capable.
What does this mean for you:

Stretch yourself.  Try out for a team or for a part in a play that you may not get, or run for student government, or compete in mock trial.  Not everything will work out. You won’t get everything you attempt, but don’t let a mental rope hold you back.    

That leads to my next tip.  Try something new. It may be a new instrument, a new club, a new idea in a class.  Try stuff. I know that it can feel embarrassing to try something that you aren’t good at or that might not work out, but you are in a unique place where people will support you.  So give it a shot.

Widen your circle of friendships.  Some of you have been here since sixth grade, and you know a lot of people.  Others are new to ninth grade, and you may know very few people. That’s how I feel right now.  Either way, make it a goal to make a great new friend this year who lives outside of the length of the rope that used to hold you back.  We have students from all over San Diego, so make friends with someone who you would have never met if not for being at Bishop’s.

Find an adult in the community you can trust and who knows you well.  This person can be your advisor, a teacher, or if you are like I was, your water polo coach.  Over the next four years you will have your ups and downs. You will have experiences that feel like failure, and that inner voice may tell you, see, you should not have tried to break free from those ropes.  When you have those moments, you will want an adult here who can remind you that you are stronger than those ropes.

Be a role model.  You might be thinking, what?  I just became a ninth grader. Be a role model for the middle schoolers.  Be a role model for the other ninth graders. Be kind. Be humble. Be good to others.  Do the right thing when no one is watching.   

My last tip: enjoy the now and don’t think too far ahead.  This time will go by fast. Some of you may already be thinking about classes you are going to take in the future, or about college.  Slow down. Just enjoy this next big step from middle school to high school. 

Finally, I have a favor to ask of you:

You should know that I am great with faces but not good with names.  Don’t hesitate to remind me of your name, and please forgive me if I have to ask often.  My office is right over there. If my door is open, please come by to chat or just to say hello.  Getting to know you will be the highlight of my day.
THE BISHOP’S SCHOOL     7607 La Jolla Boulevard     La Jolla, CA 92037     (858) 459-4021
The Bishop’s School is an independent, coeducational college-preparatory day school for students in grades six through twelve who live throughout San Diego County. Founded in 1909, the School is affiliated with the Episcopal church.