We are just completing graduation season here in our area. Our district alone hosted nine graduations. What a glorious time for lots of students, parents, and school leaders!
That proud sense of accomplishment!
That exhilerating feeling of completion!
That exciting feeling of new beginnings!
This morning I was reading through some recent posts as I nursed my coffee on the back porch and listened to the wind chimes sing in the breeze…ah, I love a restful long weekend morning! I read and re-read this post by Nikki Woodson. Her words certainly struck a nerve with me and I had to revisit them a couple of times. They made me recall that personal experience when I completed and graduated with my Masters of Education degree…
I was working as a paraprofessional (teacher’s assistant is the title in laymen’s terms) at one of the local high schools in this district. I was also a single mother helping my youngest child prepare to graduate high school and elbow-deep in wedding preparations for my oldest child. I was also interviewing for jobs as a certified teacher in a couple of other districts. I was also tired and looking for ways to clear my calendar. Several seniors and I were studying for their high school final exams and I mentioned something about my recent college finals and my upcoming college practicum. My students stopped thinking about their class material and immediately wanted to know more about my college experience. They knew I had been working on my M.Ed. degree for a couple of years and one asked when I would graduate. So, I calmly told him that I finished up my course work and got my degree during the upcoming summer but I didn’t really think that I would participate in the actual graduation ceremony. All eleven of those students sitting at the table were apalled! “How can you NOT Walk?” “Wouldn’t your parents like to see you Walk?” “Don’t you think your kids would like to see their mother get her diploma?” I explained that I had already participated in a couple of graduations and that the ceremony didn’t seem as important to me as the actual completion and next steps. These young folks who had never particpated in a graduation ceremony just couldn’t understand that and voiced several protests. I finally got them back onto our exam review guide and studying for their final resumed.
The comments of those young people stuck with me, though. I would revisit them several times over the next few days. I finally announced to them on their last day of school that I had changed my mind and I would be walking through my college graduation ceremony that summer. Cheers went up!
What I didn’t realize is exactly what Woodson’s mother stated. I didn’t realize until that moment “that graduation was for all those people who had supported me to that point and for all those who came before me and made it possible…participation was a way to honor them.” So, on that hot day in August, just days after my youngest graduated from high school and my oldest said her marriage vows, on the weekend before I started my job as a certified educator, I Walked through another college graduation. Like Woodson’s, my mother beamed with pride and a few friends sat with her and my children and cheered when my name was called. I’d also like to think that several of those young people who had cheered a month or two before were also inspired to persevere and accomplish more than they ever thought they could.
Like Woodson points out, as educators, we have an impact on students and the community in so many more ways than just those lessons we prepare and facilitate in our classrooms. We inspire through our continuous learning and by our actions in those communities. As you begin your summer – and as many of you begin your continuous learning through professional development or college courses – keep in mind that you are still making an impact on students and your community even though there are not young people sitting in your classroom.