Seriously?!? Third grade GRADUATION? You’re kidding me.
This is just like when everyone gets trophies for participating.
I didn’t get a certificate for graduating until I finished 12th grade.
These were my thoughts as the end of this school year for M approached.
Now I have to explain: in our school district, elementary school is kindergarten through third grade. Then, the students go to what’s called the 4/5 academy – just 4th and 5th grades, as a prep for middle school. Then they go to middle school for 6th-8th grades and then high school for 9th-12th.
So, when the students finish 3rd grade, they change schools, and they “graduate” from elementary school.
And, I have to say, at first, I was skeptical. Did they really need a whole week’s worth of celebrations, culminating with a ceremony and all-day picnic, just for finishing third grade? I finished third grade and all that happened was that I got to go to fourth grade.
Sit down, friends. I’m about to admit that I was wrong.
I was wrong.
Admittedly, part of why third grade graduation is significant is that they are changing schools. It’s a big jump from the nurturing, warm environment of elementary school to the more focused, pre-middle school environment of 4th grade.
But that isn’t all of it. In fact, for me, that might be the least of it.
First, the “graduation” ceremony isn’t a ceremony in which they just read off the names and students walk across the stage. Instead, each student is recognized for what the students in his or her class voted was that student’s strength.
Students were recognized for characteristics such as responsibility for learning, diversity and inclusion, competition and collaboration, success and failure, reflection, and having wonderful ideas. I love that, and I love that the students voted on which characteristics their classmates exhibited.
Second, what this elementary school does exceptionally well – and this comes directly from the teachers and principal – is emphasize kindness. The school has a new principal for next year, and when the kids were asked what he needed to know about our school, they universally said, “You have to be kind.”
I love that this school is kind in every way. From honoring the departing principal with a flash mob; to celebrating students who make a difference in their classes each week; to making everyone feel welcome and comfortable; to the Friday Community Circle, filled with songs and dancing and cheering. The graduation week is a celebration and culmination of the kindness that goes on all year.
Third, for M and me especially, this school has been a supportive, loving place in a year of ups and downs. For those of you who don’t know, M was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in October, 2015. She had lost a bunch of weight and was so sick at the end of the last school year, on and off throughout the summer, and into the beginning of this school year. She was absent many days for medical tests and for feeling crappy.
I will forever be grateful for the amazing teachers and principal who were kind, supportive, and the best cheerleaders for BOTH of us. Not only did they make sure M had everything she needed and never missed a beat at school, but they also gave me hugs and a lot of coffee, supporting me, too, when I definitely needed it.
So, for this graduation from third grade:
it’s a recognition that M is growing up…
it’s a celebration that she is healthy and thriving…
and it’s an overwhelming appreciation for the kindness and love that we have felt for our two years there.
And that’s why I’m totally ok with this third grade graduation.
Have a great weekend, y’all.