Class of 2023 Graduation Speakers
Class of 2023 Graduation Speakers
Gia Batty, Faculty Speaker
“Why We Should All Be Teachers”
I want to welcome everyone here to our celebration of this amazing class—to the families and friends of the graduates, all of my people from the Nobles community, and a special shout-out to the handful of 2020 grads who are with us today to see their siblings and friends graduate. I’m so glad you’re all here.
My name is Gia Batty, but, around here, I go by Ms. Batty.
I’m a teacher and a funny thing happens when I tell people what I do, when I say that I am a high school English teacher.
A brief discussion ensues about The Great Gatsby or Toni Morrison, my opinion on the Oxford comma, or why we don’t teach cursive anymore.
Then we launch into what I call “favorite teacher time.” People love talking about their favorite teachers and I love hearing about them. They are some of the most impactful people in one’s life.
And I bet if I asked all of you to tell me about your favorite teacher, you would talk, more than anything else, about how that teacher made you feel.
How your favorite teacher noticed you, challenged you, made you realize you weren’t bad at math, made you excited to come to class.
Favorite teachers are the best.
What if we could harness some of that favorite teacher energy and use it outside the classroom, beyond our campus?
I think you can all be teachers.
You can make people feel the way that your favorite teacher made you feel.
In the next few years, you will have opportunities to be leaders, to be mentors. You will be the captain of your hockey team, a tutor in the writing center, you’ll train someone at work. You’ll be an RA, a TA, in charge of an important group project.
And beyond college, you will start companies, head up a new team in a global office somewhere, direct a show, have your own lab, open a restaurant. You’ll found a nonprofit, be an attending physician, be a parent.
You will find yourself in a place where, because of your knowledge and experience, you will be in charge. You’ll need to get people to trust you, to work together, to take on challenges.
In other words, you will be a teacher.
You will all be teachers. I mean that symbolically of course.
I’ve been teaching a long time—for more than half my life—and I’ve had the privilege to work with and learn from some incredible teachers, some of your favorite teachers.
There’s a little bit of magic in teaching and I can’t give away all of our secrets in this speech, but there are two things I can send you off into the world with. Two pro tips for being a good teacher.
The first is to prioritize relationships.
Get to know people and let them know you. This is the true work of teaching.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the books, I love helping you make your writing sparkle, and pushing you to think critically, but without a good relationship, without trust, you’re not going to buy in and or revise your essay or want to share your thoughts in class.
As an example, here are just some of the ways we’ve gotten to know each other.
I taught so many of you—as sophomores when we tried to have class under a tent like this. I had a bunch of you again, along with some of you for the first time, in my senior electives this year. I read your college essays this fall and for a few of you, our initial introduction was the story you were trying to tell, whether that was about your time as a youth baseball umpire or how to properly pronounce your first name. I traveled with ten of you to a far-flung island in the Bahamas on an EXCEL trip and looked in awe with you at a starry sky that could have been a screensaver. I saw one of you every day in the Castle and you told me you liked my outfit. Two of you threw me a surprise Gatsby-themed 50th birthday party this past fall.
I have asked you countless questions of the day, noticed dozens of new haircuts, new smiles without braces, new white sneakers. You’ve asked me about my eye problems, how I felt about Bruno’s mustache, how this speech was coming along.
Putting relationships first not only makes everything else easier, it makes it better.
This is teaching. Take the time to get to know people and let them know you.
Pro tip #2 A big part of teaching is actually learning.
When I was your age, and I know you hate when we start stories like that, but I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be an English teacher, I went to school for it, and those first few years in the front of a classroom, I thought I had so much to teach my students. I had so many tools in my toolbox.
But what I started to realize was that I didn’t actually know everything and that I could learn a lot from my students.
As a teacher, you need to be open to learning from people. You need to understand that as much as you think you have to teach people, you have just as much to learn.
Here are some important lessons I’ve learned from you:
What “no cap” means
That gaining trust is sometimes glacial and you can’t give up on people too quickly
That “Bojack Horseman” is a show worth watching
How to be a good mom
What “3 starring” someone in Clash of Clans is
How to make my Google slides look cool
And that teenagers are so much kinder than the world makes them out to be
You’ve taught me over and over again that I am doing the right thing in the right place.
Remember that you don’t know everything. You never will and you can always learn something from the people around you.
These two pro tips—prioritizing relationships and being open to learning from others—will make your job, whatever it is, more enjoyable, and will make the people you’re working with want to work with you, want to do what you’re asking them to do.
Because you will be a teacher.
Teaching is such a lesson in humanity. What you put into it, you get back in abundance.
When I meet your parents and grandparents, they’ll sometimes say, “Oh you’re so passionate and enthusiastic, no wonder you’re a teacher!” but the truth is that I’m passionate and enthusiastic because I am a teacher. Because of you.
To close, I want to talk about time, about a teacher’s sense of time.
Teachers are always looking at the clock and the calendar. We need to know when to pause the video so there’s time to discuss it, or how many days it will take to cover a topic. We know how fast the first quarter of school zooms by and the time warp that happens between the first week back from spring break and then all of a sudden being right here under this tent on graduation day.
These four years, these six years for some of you, have probably gone by in a flash. One minute you’re putting your phone in jail and the next you’re using it to take pictures in your flower crown.
I know some of you wanted to slow things down and others wished there was a fast forward button on the Nobles app, but we’re all right here, right now, so let’s enjoy this together. As a teacher, I already know it will be over in two snaps.
It was an honor to be your speaker. I’m so proud of all of you and I want you to be the best teachers you can be.
Will Grimes ’23, Student Speaker
Hello everyone, my name is Will Grimes, and I am so thankful to be here today on behalf of the class of 2023. I really am honored to have the chance to share the stage with so many wonderful people. I want to start by thanking some of the people who have helped me along the way. And yes, I’ll only thank some, because Mr. Denning said 6 straight minutes of thank yous, while nice, won’t leave much time for anything else. In truth, I have six hours of thank yous to give, so I’ll just start with a few and try to get the rest done later. To my parents, thank you for always being there; I love you and I’m forever grateful for all of your support. Isabel, my sister, you somehow manage to be both the strangest person I know and the best advice-giver. You’ve been my playmate since day one, and I love you. To my teachers, thank you for being lenient with my late assignments, and for caring enough about me to really push me. To my classmates, and especially my friends, you are a special group of people, and this speech is meant for you.
I want to tell you three stories from my time here at Nobles, and then tell you what the phrase “noblesse oblige” means to me.
When I first came to Nobles, I never would have expected to be here on this stage. That may sound like a bit of humility, but as a rising ninth grader I was, in the words of Zach Myers, “the weirdest kid he’d ever met.” That’s generally not the type of kid you want speaking at your graduation…but the votes are in, and here we are!
But I was very shy. I would sit in the alcoves, on my phone, waiting for someone to come and talk to me. I remember one day when all of my friends had a different free than me, and when I went down to lunch, I didn’t know a single person there. I was faced with the difficult choice of where to sit, and I ended up sitting by myself. I must have looked pretty ridiculous, sitting all on my own in the middle of a huge table in New Castle that could have sat twelve.
What I did not expect is for a random junior I had only briefly seen in Chamber Singers to come and eat with me. And when Kam Bina sat across from me, I stood up, assuming that he wanted the table for his friends. But he didn’t. He seemed to really want to sit with me. We talked for his entire free period—about Nobles, and what singing groups were like.
I could not believe it. I couldn’t understand why he did that, but looking back, I don’t think he thought much of it. It was just another lunch for him. But in sitting with me, he made me feel truly seen for the first time at Nobles. The fact that I still remember that experience speaks to the impact that one small instance of kindness can have on another person’s life.
At the start of my junior year, I was placed into English class with Mr. Baker. I, like everyone else, had heard the stories. He had a reputation—his daily reading quizzes struck fear into the hearts of students across the upper school. The term “Baker paper” had become synonymous with free periods spent fretting in the quiet room.
Mr. Baker did not disappoint. The class was really hard and there were lots of papers and quizzes. Comments on my papers ranged from, “You have the soul of a philosopher” to “I’ll write this one off, Will.” But the thing that I noticed most about his class was not the workload, but Mr. Baker’s love of teaching. It was in everything—the way he moved around the classroom, the way he would randomly start screaming in the middle of classes, the enthusiasm in his stories.
And this love seeped into everyone over the course of the year. The most reserved participants started to raise their hands and laugh in their answers. The most willing participants stopped caring about being right, and instead just wanted to move the discussion along. Baker will tell you that he does very little in a class, and that’s true only in the most literal sense that our classes consist of minimally regulated student discussion. But he brings an infectious enthusiasm for learning that is undeniable, and that allows those discussions to happen.
If you asked Mr. Baker why he teaches, he’d tell you that his motivation is purely selfish, that he likes teaching for how it makes him feel. And I believe him. To Mr. Baker, it is a joy to serve others, and that joy is what motivated him to lead a life of service. And that’s not to say that I think he’s only helping himself—he isn’t. It’s just that the joy and learning he’s brought to students has been at least matched by his own love for the classroom. That joy is the single most important thing I took from his class, and it is that joy that made me question the nature of service, and how in helping others, one can find their own joy.
In the spring of my freshman year, I tutored a third-grader named Marvin twice a week. I’ll be honest: I was trying to find the easiest way of getting community service hours, and somehow I thought teaching math to hyperactive third graders was the way to do it. Clearly I didn’t think very hard.
But Marvin was shy. Painfully shy. Like, I couldn’t get a word out of him for our entire first session. He wasn’t a big fan of virtual school, and often would miss his other classes. When I asked him what he liked, I expected something like “Call of Duty,” or “GI Joe,” or something having to do with explosions. Instead, he sheepishly answered, “volcanos.”
From that point on, everything we did was volcano-based. I gave him PBS articles about cones and pyroclastic flow. I wrote mathematical word problems about volcanoes and showed videos about the Ring of Fire and tectonic plates. He was so excited to learn about volcanoes that he always made sure to complete his other assignments so they wouldn’t eat into our time together, and he started showing up to his other classes more regularly.
I loved teaching Marvin. He was hilarious, and had a big toothless grin that he’d flash when he got a problem right. While I hope he learned reading and math from me, I learned from him how much I love teaching. That was a kind of service that felt deeply mutual, and I sometimes wonder if an experience like mine with Marvin was what pushed someone like Baker into a life of service.
I tell these three stories for two reasons: first, to illustrate how much Nobles has given me. I have changed immeasurably over the course of my time here, and it’s in no small part because of the incredible people surrounding me every day. Second, to show the importance of service to others. Kam didn’t have to come sit with me. Mr. Baker didn’t have to become a teacher in the first place. Marvin didn’t have to show up to our meetings. But they did! And they have all impacted my life more than any one of them probably knows.
My speech is entitled “Noblesse Oblige,” which means “nobility obliges” in French. It was used by people of noble ancestry to explain an unstated obligation to improve the lives of those less fortunate than themselves. While this term is now recognized as a term of condescension toward the less resourced, I believe that we shouldn’t abandon it entirely, as it has the potential for enormous power in our lives.
To the class of ‘23: think of a person who has helped you. I guarantee that multiple people just popped into your head, some teachers, some coaches and directors, and probably many classmates. And I’m sure that if you asked those people whether you had helped them, they would say yes. Each one of you has been helped, but also has helped others at this school.
I say this to stress that noblesse oblige is, most of all, a way of life, and it is one that both demands and builds reciprocity. In choosing to be kind, you not only build joy for service in yourself, but also in others. With practice, each day you can choose to be kind, and to help others, as Kam Bina did with me. Service, and an obligation to serve, sounds like a drag, like it’s something we have to suck it up and deal with. But as you can learn from Mr. Baker and my experience with Marvin, it is a joy to serve others. We have all been given so much, in that we have had the opportunity to spend our last four years here and to be surrounded by the incredible people who have dedicated their lives to this place. So I ask all of you to hold onto those gifts, and to give them to others. Find something that you love, and find some way to spread it. As the Noblesse, the Nobles class of 2023, it shouldn’t just be our obligation, but our pleasure, to serve others, and to be kind. I know that each and every one of you can do it.
Thank you again, and happy graduation.
Brooke Manning ’23, Student Speaker
Good morning, everyone. I’d like to start by thanking my classmates for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today. I’d also like to thank my parents for the constant sacrifices they have made over the years to send me to Nobles, and to my big sister, Paige, for being the best role model I could ask for.
When I was eight years old my dad came home from work and surprised Paige and me with our first dog. I say dog because she was not a puppy, she was a two-and-a-half-year-old rescued English bulldog, who I couldn’t wait to spend lazy days on the couch with. “This is Moxie,” he said, while she immediately lay down and rolled herself over for the first belly rub of thousands I’d give her in the coming years.
Moxie was a word I’d never heard before, so it felt weird to use it as a name for my pet. The dictionary defines moxie as a person with energy, pep, courage and determination, so it felt odd for this bulldog who seemed to have no interest in doing anything other than sleeping all day to have a name with such character.
The first day I got dropped off at the bus stop, I made it home in record time to Moxie waiting for me at the door, and when I opened it, she bolted through my legs and nearly sent me falling down my steps.
We developed an unusual routine that was far from those lazy couch days I’d imagined, and almost every day for years, the cycle would repeat itself. She’d take off out the front door, cross over into my neighbor’s yard and go between a tiny missing fence pane that I still have no idea how she could get her lump-shaped body through. But, she would end up in someone’s front yard on Careswell Street in Marshfield, a very busy main road in my town.
Now this may not make me sound great, and I’m embarrassed to admit, that she could in fact outrun me. In my defense, every time she took off it took about a minute for me to process the fact that a sixty-pound English bulldog was sprinting full force through my legs. There was never time for me to grab her leash, so I’d just chase after her time and time again.
Once I finally wrangled her, I’d have to pick her up, waddle for five to ten steps, put her back down, catch my breath and repeat the process. But every once in a while, I’d hear my name be called out from a car that had pulled over, and someone I knew would offer me and Moxie a ride back to my house. This generous and kind gesture would cost me blood, sweat, and literally sometimes tears.
I have a lot of pride in growing up in Marshfield. The community I am a part of and the relationships I have fostered have helped make me the person I am today. If it weren’t for coach Tom Resor, I wouldn’t know Nobles existed, and so coming to an entirely new place, filled with new people who were very different from me seemed scary. And to be honest with you, it was.
I don’t think I went into Mr. Bryant’s freshman year HHC class having much moxie, because the first time I got shamed for saying “uh” “like” or “um” my face definitely turned beet red. Or, the first time I handed in an annotated bibliography that I thought I nailed, only to find out I got a 9/15 which equates to a 60 percent; that was certainly scary too.
Walking into the Omni for hockey tryouts alongside girls who were much older and more experienced than I was, was scary, but every shot that missed the net and test that didn’t go exactly how I planned, helped shape the person I am today.
We’ve all grown over the past four years. Each one of us has walked into a new scary place. Whether it be a class, a tryout, an audition, or on to the assembly stage. But it wasn’t one test, or one assembly performance, or one specific moment that shaped who we’ve become as a whole, but the accumulation of all the wins and losses that have occurred in our everyday lives.
The seemingly small decisions or small courageous acts are what shape a person, and one of the things Nobles students lack is the ability to live in the moment and refrain from thinking that every loss will deter you from your goals.
If it’s not going to matter in five years, don’t worry about it for longer than five minutes, and try to equip yourself with the mindset that not every failure matters as much as you think it does. What does matter, is how you react and what you do after said failure, because that is what shapes your character.
Whether the win is as big as being brave enough to give a NED talk about your identity or background or as small as signing up to take AP Euro, there’s a community of people at Nobles ready to cheer you on. And if you took AP Euro and survived that class longer than a month, you made it further than I did! And that is something to be celebrated!
Even in my toughest times at Nobles, I had a whole crew of people behind me ready to provide support, just like when I was hobbling down the road carrying Moxie in my arms and someone would offer us a ride.
If you told me freshman year that I’d have enough moxie to get up on stage and kiss Brian Grant in front of the whole school to promote the Campuses Against Cancer Rose Sale I’d tell you you were crazy. But over the course of my four years, the brave examples of the people that stepped on stage before me helped me chase the energetic, and courageous person who stands on stage before you today.
Whether I knew it or not, I have been chasing Moxie my whole life. We all have. But we haven’t been chasing the lumpy furball who goes from zero to 60 in five seconds. We have been chasing the people we want to be five, ten, even twenty years from now.
Had I not come to Nobles and enveloped myself in all this school has to offer, I would not be the person I am today.
After this, the Class of 2023 is going to go our separate ways to newer, bigger, scarier places. If you’re nervous, that’s okay. I’m nervous too. But going to a school like Nobles has helped me chase my moxie. And if you haven’t gotten there yet, that’s okay, because what I’ve learned is that no matter where you’re going, there will be plenty of people along the way to offer you a ride.
Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2023.
Dr. Catherine J. Hall, Head of School
Head of School Remarks
The Class of 2023 has a special place in my heart, as we started our journey at Nobles together in the fall of 2017. I remember walking down the castle hill, following a great class of sixies to the MAC for my installation.
As an aside, my daughter Evelyn, who was only six at the time, kept referring to my installation as my funeral. “No, it is not my funeral, it is my installation!”
We are reminded way too often about what has changed and been lost since that installation day in the fall of 2017. It is all too present in our minds, our news feeds and our daily lives.
First, our world feels so much more fragile today.
With several years of rapid changes, cancellations and repeated curveballs, life today feels less certain and predictable. While we are grateful for the return to so much normal over the last year, there remains a feeling of fragility that challenges our confidence in our well-being and in our future.
Second, our world feels so much less equitable today.
The impact of our many global crises has disproportionately impacted those most vulnerable and those who have the fewest resources and control over their own lives. One of the places inequities have deepened acutely is in our nation’s schools. As a lifetime educator, it is heartbreaking to witness what has happened in the last few years to our students who are most at risk and most in need of education as a path to a better future.
For many decades, we have worked hard to foster greater equity and inclusion in our schools to promote belonging for all, not some at the expense of or instead of others, but everyone. We are now witnessing inequities building on top of each other and silos and barriers being raised that are only creating division and eroding the culture of inclusion we have worked so hard to forge.
Third, the world feels so much less kind today.
We seem to have lost the art of giving people the benefit of the doubt, of waiting to learn more about others’ ideas before concluding and reacting, or of seeking to understand a differing view with the goal of trying to deepen our ideas.
Undoubtedly, a big part of the problem is the increasingly anonymous world in which we live, where conversations with neighbors are replaced with social media posts attacking strangers or anonymous petitions. This, coupled with the uncertainties, worries, and fears that persist, leads many seeking answers for the struggles they are facing to look for someone to hold responsible. It simply must be somebody’s fault, right?
The result is a world more focused on vindication than understanding, one too preoccupied with what we have gained or lost as individuals than what we can do to make a positive difference in our communities. Our world today is decidedly less kind than it was six years ago, and as a result, our world is really hurting.
Ok, so this is a bleak opening to my talk, and those who know me will guess correctly that, as an inherent optimist, I will choose to look towards solutions, and towards our students to find them.
Yes, a good deal has changed in our world in worrisome ways since we started together at Nobles in 2017, and the challenges we are facing as a region, country, and world are acute. So much, however, has also not changed in 6 years, particularly at Nobles. In fact, some things have actually become clearer and strengthened amidst the storm around us.
The challenging landscape of the last several years has given us the gift of seeing with great clarity and confidence what our load-bearing beams are at Nobles, those core pillars of any structure that keep it standing upright. As we have gratefully returned to so much of the “normal” we missed over the last two years, we have also taken this important window to reaffirm the load-bearing beams that keep our Nobles roof securely over our heads.
First, we know that mentoring relationships sit at the center of what we do. We often use the phrase relationship before task to capture what is a vital and unique part of the Nobles experience. We know that our students can’t be their best selves or do their best work if they do not feel known and seen by faculty who invest in their success in classrooms, on fields and on stages. The days of Virtual Nobles strongly challenged the connections that foster those mentoring relationships. We felt the impact of its loss and the boost of its return.
Second, we celebrate the power of an inclusive Nobles community, and of the shared experiences that forge powerful bonds and lasting memories. Our time as a full school community each morning in assembly is our most visible statement of this commitment to the Nobles community, where the talent and inspiration of the talk or performance on stage are matched by the humility, laughter and applause that undergirds our time together. Returning to our beloved Lawrence Auditorium last year rendered this just so clear.
Third, we know that, as a school, fostering intellectual curiosity and challenging our students with demanding scholarship sit as a cornerstone of what we do well. We push our students to pursue broad excellence and to explore diverse interests, where trial and error are integral to a growth mindset, and where we ensure our students know that their integrity is more important than their academic outcomes.
Finally, we ultimately hope our graduates go on to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Whether they are at a podium or behind the scenes, whether they can help one person or an entire city, we hope our graduates seek opportunities to help others with their talent, resources, empathy and kindness. Our EXCEL program is perhaps our most visible commitment to this principle. We have felt the loss of these experiences for several years and are now buoyed by the full return of our EXCEL trips this spring.
As much as the world has changed in worrisome ways since we started here together in 2017, our load-bearing beams at Nobles have only grown clearer and are only more strongly rooted as they hold up our Nobles roof.
As I reflect on what has changed and strengthened over the last six years, I am also reflecting on what I hope these next six years ahead will bring for each of you.
First, I hope you will help our world be and feel less fragile. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope each of you fails—a lot.
Ok, I know that may not be the encouraging words you hope to hear from your optimistic and caring head of school, so let me explain.
Of course, I wish great success for each of you in whatever path your life takes you, but I am confident you will find greater success and, more importantly, greater happiness in life if you also experience some moments of struggle—and failure—along the way.
Amidst all of our mounting worries about the mental health crisis adolescents are facing, it is easy to subscribe to the belief that well-being is found in bubble-wrapping each of you to ensure you avoid struggle and failure at all costs. I count myself at the front of the line of those worried about your mental health, and I also firmly believe that experiencing—and successfully working through—struggle and sometimes failure is actually key to your long-term well-being.
A life filled with talent, aspiration, passion, and healthy risk-taking means it is not a question of if but when you will face adversity and, inevitably, failure. I hope your time at Nobles has included plenty of moments of what I call “safe failure,” where the stakes are not as high even if the emotions are. It is in those moments we strive to help you discover the tools and resources to not only navigate those challenging moments but to learn from them and gain the confidence that you can and will be more than ok the next time you face a similar challenge.
Yes, the world is uncertain and the future will throw you tons of curve balls. I also hope your Nobles education affords you the skills and confidence to reject the fragility it is assumed you have to embrace your inner fearlessness. Quite simply, you’ve got this.
Second, I hope you counter a world that is increasingly inequitable and divided. I hope six years from now you remain connected– to your classmates, your faculty, and your Nobles community– and that you have made strides to build new connections and deepen your new communities along your journey. While you likely realize today the power of the relationships you have forged in your years at Nobles, I hope you recognize how enduring those relationships are in the years to come, how your Nobles friends and faculty will be the ones you call upon the most, in good times and in moments of struggle. I also hope relationship before task is a mantra you take from your time at Nobles as you strive to make a difference in the lives of others in ways that tear down divisions and foster inclusion.
Lastly, I hope in your next six years you have done what you can to bring kindness back into our world. It is, of course, simultaneously both the simplest and hardest thing to do.
I will start with the hard part, which is the world I know all too well you are facing in your daily lives. You are simply surrounded by a mountain of meanness—meanness that strives to attack and tear down, that labels and judges, that anonymously comments, and that ultimately causes just so much hurt.
How on earth can a student just graduating high school make a dent in that mountain?
So this gets to the simple part. Because you can.
The simple part of kindness is how much agency you have to make a difference, each and every day. With just one word or one small act, you begin to move that mountain. That small word or action matters more than you will ever see or know to those who are on the receiving end, whether that is a friend, a neighbor, or a stranger. It also leads to a multiplying effect you will never see but must believe you have created.
Trust that even the smallest acts of kindness can ultimately make a powerful difference in the world.
In thinking about this great Class of 2023 and the six-year journey we have had together at Nobles, I looked back at the remarks I shared that fall day in 2017, as we walked together down castle road towards my installation as only the 7th head of school at Nobles in over 150 years.
I spoke that day about three principles that guide my life and I hope will guide yours: honesty, hard work, and, yes, kindness. I said then what I will say again now as I close: If in doubt, be kind. Thank you.