Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Eighth Grade Graduation

Transitions from year to year, event to event, season to season

From the background to the foreground, left to right, 8th graders to 6th graders.  
Our story below takes place in this type of setting.

As our 8th graders left the building, the simple action of leaving the building became a memento, a reminder and maybe even a milestone.  They were pressed onto the high school.  Like a bird being coaxed out of the nest when the mother knows it can fly, these students are both excited and apprehensive.  Similar to other stages and seasons in life, school is filled with transitions.  One thing comes to an end while another begins.  It's this cycle of beginning and ending that forms a microcosm of real life where we all grow, develop and change while we mature; students, staff, parents and even administration. 

The Plan:
After a final inning of kickball, teachers against students, the students all returned to their seats for one last "talk."  Earlier in the day, the 8th graders were discussing doing something special.  After deliberation, we decided on a signal.  When the principal dropped his blazer, the 8th graders were all to get up and silently exit the room.  One student was to pick up the blazer.  Another was to turn on the exit music.  All were to remain as quiet as a heard of traveling 8th graders can be.  As they left, it would be the last time they would walk across our gymnasium floor as 8th graders.  When they return, they would be 9th graders!  This was their send off.  This was their commencement.  This was the last time they would walk as middle school students.

The Practice:
Incredible. We followed the plan pretty closely to the intent but a few unintended benefits happened. Our simple walk became emotional.  No one expected anybody to shed a tear but the emotions were high and as they began walking, the 8th graders began crying.  This was contagious and both boys, girls and then staff also shed tears. A realization of the enormity of this event occurred and the 7th and 6th graders watching began a spontaneous cheer; an authentic exclamation of appreciation, commendation and approbation.  They seemed genuinely proud, happy and glad for their earlier rivals.  There were no derogatory remarks, and in fact, a bit of envy and some admiration.  These 8th graders were taking a big step, right before their eyes and we all owed some respect and honor to them for succeeding!

After the cheering, stopped, and the 8th graders had left the room and gathered in the commons celebrating, there was a vacant area in the bleachers.  We looked around and noticed the void.  "Seventh graders, slide down to your new seats. Sixth graders, move into those new vacant positions.  You are the new Middle School!  You will build this place next year and you are now 8th graders and 7th graders."  This kinesthetic act of moving locations left an impression on all of us in the room.  Eighth graders were now high school students and 7th and 6th graders had grown a year, right there.  The bell rang and everyone was dismissed to home for summer break.

Lessons and Questions:
What lessons do we learn about transitions?  Is it easy to have a clear line of beginning and end, or is a gradual change better?  Are seasons better with the gradual change in weather, day length and temperature or do birthdays and anniversaries give better cairns? With every lesson, we uncover more questions, some public and some personal. What have I been learning over this summer?  Where can I help others transition better?  How can I transition better?

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