When asked to assist with a commencement speech, I was reminded of the value of reflection. Taking time to pause and remember how far the journey has been brought smiles. Reflecting upon the days, weeks and years that have passed allowed the harvesting of the gems of experience. Students remembered viewing the eclipse at school last year and the passing of their principal this year. 

In the midst of the rush to write and grade finals so that report cards can be completed, teachers also stopped to reflect on the successes, big and small, over the past year. When students independently accessed the grade level nonfiction text without whining, that was a huge victory. Increased reading comprehension scores were happy dance worthy.

At the beginning of the year, constant circulation for behavior management and task completion was needed. Now students have figured out how to get on task and stay on task without as many teacher reminders. 

Successfully navigating cooperative group work without teacher intervention is another win. Small group discussions with students asking and answering questions to grasp the depths of the novel, rather than because it was assigned also shows maturity. 

After school reflection time connects parents and children. Asking what they learned at school invites the sharing of daily frustrations and successes which keeps parents tuned in and present for the bigger events. 

Taking every opportunity to discuss projects students have completed garners a richer shared celebration at the end. Asking what they learned this past year and then listening deeply shows concern. Follow up questions foster a deeper connection. What subject was the most fun? Which event did you learn the most from? What new skill have you mastered? What have you learned about getting along with your classmates? 

Celebrate the successful completion of another school year even if it’s not one of the more traditional milestones with a graduation ceremony. Whether moving through one of these more pivotal rites of passage with official graduation ceremonies or moving on to the next higher grade, the sense of completion is sweet.

Congratulations to all graduating students. Their inner glow is so evident as they euphorically glide across the stage. Promoting from kindergarten to first grade is definitely smile inducing. The joy of transitioning from elementary school to middle school is written all over the faces of sixth graders.

Eight graders display a new found confidence as they stride across the stage and move onto high school. The sense of accomplishment is even more satisfying for those young adults receiving their high school diplomas. As that tassel is moved to the other side, they head out to conquer the world or make a splash on their new college campus.

Marking rites of passage with pomp and circumstance help to punctuate their significance. As family and friends gather to celebrate and share stories, the deliciousness of completion is even sweeter. The preciousness is enhanced for those having overcome hurdles to reach these milestones. 

Graduation merits bragging rights and celebration. Graduates as well as their parents and teachers have earned the right. One of the joys of parenting is bragging about your kids. One of the joys of teaching is knowing that young minds have been inspired and developed by the learning tasks you designed. Celebrate their accomplishments and successes because you showed up each day to assign homework and check it. 

Take time to acknowledge the accomplishments of the past year and to celebrate its completion. May graduation celebrations bring great joy and satisfaction to all.

Kristi McCracken, author of two children’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at educationallyspeaking@gmail.com.

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