Moving Up

Every June, the students in our fifth grade participate in a Moving Up Ceremony as they get ready to leave our elementary school. It’s a fairly serious affair since these students are about to be middle schoolers. Each of the four fifth grade classes has a chance to sit on stage as their teachers shares a speech about their time together. After the speech, the kids are called up, one at a time, to receive a certificate and shake hands with their teacher and the principal.

This year, I snuck into the ceremony, just as the speeches began. I was moved to hear the words of the teachers, the words they had written to summarize the year and also inspire their students. By the third speech, I was noticing a common thread that had me nodding my head and sporting a smile I couldn’t hide. Each teacher’s speech clearly highlighted the ways that their community had bonded throughout the year, through literacy. Some spoke about read aloud and bookclubs, while others talked about specific writing units and taking part in the April Slice of Life Challenge together. These speeches reiterated what I know is true-that communities and relationships can be formed through our work growing readers and writers.

As the third teacher wrapped up her speech and prepared to call up her students for their certificates, my mind wandered to my own departure from elementary school. I remember standing on the sidewalk at dismissal, hugging my sixth grade teachers as I sobbed.

Before my mind wandered too far, I was pulled back to the present. A student had deviated from the standard handshake with the teacher. She went in for a hug. Soon, each student that was called forward also opted for a hug, some lingering longer than others, clearly needing a little more from this moment.

Then, following the last teacher’s speech, the kids shook their teachers hand and then each did some sort of high five-clearly something they do regularly. Some did a single high give, others a double. Again, one student went in for an embrace.

It was in this moment that my own eyes brimmed with tears. Schools are a beautiful place. Our school is a beautiful place. The relationships and communities represented in these speeches, hugs, and high fives spoke volumes about our school community.

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8 thoughts on “Moving Up

  1. What a tribute of a slice! Love how you wove the past into the present which made the hugs and the high fives all the more powerful for you! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. We had our Step Up Day ceremony for our sixth graders last week, a few days before the end of school, and while we have toned it down over the years (it used to be at night, with kids in more formal dress and all that). They head off next year to the regional school (or elsewhere) and we’re finding a balance between honoring who they are and were, to who they may become, in a way fitting for their age. It sounds like the ceremony there that you observed was lovely and touching.
    Kevin

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  3. At a distance, I think of fifth grade graduation ceremonies as pretentious, but your experience shows me why they are important and lovely. It sounds like a heartfelt send-off for the kids that they responded to lovingly. Your description is delightful!

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  4. Your piece leans on the culture that your school community has embraced and that first hug you witnessed was ever the more powerful because of it. The short line, “She went in for a hug” stopped me in my tracks and made me smile. So glad you were able to share this special time with us!

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  5. I love both the ceremony where teachers talk about their time with their class along with your own connection to the past. These are the kinds of posts that give me hope in our educational system, that student hear the words of their teacher, and remember that yes, we care.

    Thank you for sharing this moment (and yourself) with us! 🙂

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