It has been nearly an entire year since I first walked through the gates of the Sweetest Little School by the Sea to serve as the Principal.
It has been a year filled with so much wonderful my heart can hardly contain it. There have been celebrations and new connections created. Collaborative conversations have developed and grown into year long relationships that serve to buoy our students and lift our community. We have had bumps and falls as well. We expect this. Learning and growing is not for the faint of heart. It is for the courageous, tenacious and strong.
I am inspired by Scott Rocco over at Evolving Educators to share the remarks I made at my first fifth grade culmination as Principal. He so generously shared his from this year at his high school. I love listening to graduation speeches as schools across our great nation close for the academic year and students take big steps with ceremonies marking the important work they have done at school.
Like Scott, I do not share these remarks because I think they’re awesome. I share in hopes others, too will share and we can celebrate the positive culmination of the heavy lifting we have done together as a community of educators. Here is my contribution to this chorus.
I’m guessing that as you sit here today you’re thinking, “Didn’t I just enroll him in Kindergarten?” “Didn’t I just drop her off for the first time?” And truly, you did.
I learned recently from that great research journal, Facebook, that we only get our children for 940 Saturdays from birth to high school graduation. So, I did some extensive calculations of my own and came to this: From birth until this, their fifth-grade culmination, you have already had them for well over half of that. You’ve had them for about 572 Saturdays. That’s right. So now, just 364 to go.
Before you know it they’ll be off to college and careers and will consider themselves full-fledged adults.
But now here they are, completing the first real milestone of their educational careers.
How they have grown.
In the year I have known them I have had the great privilege of watching these fifth graders grow into stronger, more confident students taking on responsibilities as well as a few of the attributes we expect of adolescents.
I am proud to be standing here today as I complete my first year as principal of the Sweetest Little School by the Sea with my first culminating class. And yet, I know I cannot be prouder than you, the family members here today. This is an event worth marking. It is the first of I hope at least two to four more commencement-type ceremonies in which your child will participate. (Middle School, High School, Undergraduate degree, graduate degree… five…doctorates?) This is a most beautiful beginning.
Now I would like to speak directly to the 5th-grade class.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Sir Winston Churchill.
Today, June 9th, 2016 is the day that you, as a class, are going to be promoted from the fifth grade. But you already know that. Still, have you really thought about it? Do you understand what it all means? The official definition of the word culminate is to end or arrive at a final stage. That’s it—the whole definition. Not very impressive, huh?
I think culmination means more than that. It means you have grown, changed, and you are now ready to move on. School provides for this moving on, but much of the change, growth and readiness has to do with your attitude and your choices. Your six years of elementary school have been a time to of great growth for each of you. You began elementary school as a near baby – only five years old. And here you are, ten or eleven. And from elementary school you will take with you the memories that you’ll hold onto for the rest of your lives, not just a certificate or report card, but also rich experiences, lessons learned, friendships forged.
Getting to this point involves not only your effort but also the combined effort and support of many people. Think for a minute about all the teachers whose classes you have been part of. Think about the office, cafeteria, yard, transportation and custodial staff. I encourage each of you to take a moment during your last day here to say a heartfelt thank you to at least one person in each one of these positions who has supported you.
Now, take a look out here at the people who have been your greatest support, your families. You could not be here today without the support of your families. Class of 2016, please stand up for a moment and applaud for your families. Families, we thank you! (Please be seated.)
I have a challenge for you, the class of 2016, and parents, we’ll likely need your help too! When you enter college about 370 Saturdays from now, run to the bookstore and purchase one of the pennants from your school. Sent it home to PFMSM. We’ll celebrate and be so proud of you. And we’ll line the halls with the pennants from you, the students of our great school by the sea.
Students, as you leave our school, may you find your feet solidly grounded in the experiences you had here. May you spread your wings, try new things, have adventures and great successes. May you also know that sometimes you will try and not succeed. But you can only fail if you stop trying. So persevere, dolphins. Try and try again. You will always be part of the heart and soul of this school, your elementary school.
We congratulate you on this milestone, and we look forward to hearing of your adventures when you come back to visit. Go out and make us proud!
Big hugs and thank you to colleagues who shared prior culmination remarks with me, some of which are woven into my own, the indomitable Dr. Sandra Winchell and the amazing Lisa Saldivar!