June 21st might mark the summer solstice but for me the first day of summer has always been the last day of school. First as a student, later as teacher and ultimately as an administrator, the last day of school always offered that clear boundary between work and the freedom of summer holidays. Ironically, now that I work at the district office that clear line has been blurred but excitement and energy of the season are still there.
Another clear herald of summer are graduation, promotion and retirement ceremonies. These events all mark the granting of new status to those who have earned it by putting in the time and meeting the necessary requirements. Whether from kindergarten, from one grade to another, from high school or into retirement, every transition marks degrees of achievement and accomplishment. Some events may be more significant, marking either the first time or last time someone moves on to another level, but all of them are important.
As an administrator I'm often asked to speak at various recognition ceremonies. The task is harder than it seems. A speaker needs to be inspiring and interesting, but also brief and conscious of the fact that the day is really for celebrating the accomplishments of others. I appreciated the advice I received from one class president given the task of inviting me to speak. "Take all the time you need - say three minutes? A little more if you can be funny"
A Google search of inspirational messages uncovers many different takes on the transition ceremony speech. They range in tone from reflective to light-hearted and humorous, to deeply thoughtful and serious. One can quote such diverse authorities as Einstein, Shakespeare, Dr Suess, Bill Gates: even Winnie the Pooh! In my opinion, the best quotes are those that recognize a transition not just as an end but also as a gateway to new opportunities.
So, keeping in mind the advice to be brief, my message for the various classes of 2013, regardless of age or program, is be justly proud of your accomplishments, to thank and be grateful for those who helped along the way, and to do your best to find something exciting and meaningful in what comes next. Recognize that there may be many different opportunities ahead and make the most of the ones that do come your way. Most of all make a difference for yourself and others, and be kind. Everyone appreciates a little kindness.
Another sign of summer is that I'll be scaling back my posts. As this year comes to a close, here's hoping that everyone gets some time over the summer to rest, recharge and recreate in whatever manner they enjoy most! September will arrive soon enough, and then it will be time to get back to Education Matters!