My third class of 4th graders graduated from High School today. Such a weird feeling! I attended the graduation and watched with pride as some of my former students received their diplomas. One of my students even gave a speech as class president. Yes, I was very proud.
It's quite an amazing feeling to know that that diploma represents the accomplishments of their 13 years of schooling. To know that I had a part in guiding their learning for one of those years is very rewarding. In a small way, I feel as though I own a part of that diploma that they are receiving. Heck, they couldn't have graduated from High School if they hadn't made it through 4th grade! Together we studied each of the regions of the United States. We studied rocks, the Solar System, and electricity. We learned long division, fractions and how to convert to metric. In 4th grade, they graduated from picture books and started on chapter books. Where would they be without learning all that?!?!? I know that I am overstating my role but it is hard to put into words the pride that I feel when I see one of my former students walk across that stage in their cap and gown and receive that diploma. In my mind, they are still 10 year olds hanging on my every word and now they are one step closer to adulthood.
Well, what I learned today is a quote. It's not from a former student but it is from one of the graduates...the Valedictorian to be specific. She ended her speech by challenging her fellow graduates to not forget the experiences gained from high school and their childhood, but to learn from them. To make this point, she challenged, "It's often said that you need to stop and smell the roses but I say that you need to step back and smell the play-doh."
I like that. Sitting there in those bleachers I reminisced about each student and I remembered the play-doh...the snotty noses, the scraped knees, the dandelions picked just for me...the successes and the failures...the experiences that shaped them and me. I hope each graduate does a little reflection and remembers the play-doh too.