Last week, after the last books had been packed, the last papers returned, the last old markers set aside for recycling, and the last of the last had been done, we said good bye to our fifth graders. In morning graduation ceremonies, the first graders, all in their white shirts and khaki pants, stood tall, sat quietly, and sang loudly, and then it was on to the fun stuff. We held a picnic on the playground. The boys ate lunch on blankets and ran and yelled and sucked on popsicles and played with balloons. Every once in a while one came in for water and asked when we were having math. "There is no more math today. Today is just play!" They weren't sure whether to be happy or sad. Finally, when the picnic was over and when they were utterly exhausted from all the festivities, I brought them in to the rug one last time. They sat there with sweat and dirt trickling down their faces, looking now officially like second graders. But they also looked at me like one more game, one more 'summer bucket list', one more share time, would be just one too much. And so I decided to give them my commencement speech.
"In first grade you learn a lot. Maybe the most you ever learn in one year. Next year you will already know how to hold your pencil and write your name, last name too, and practice spelling words. You know already about Math Minutes, and Just Right books, and following directions quickly and sitting on the rug. I hope you have learned a lot, but there are just three things you need to remember.
Take care of yourself. Don't forget how good you are. Be good to yourself, eat well, play well, sleep well. You are a great kid. You have wonderful ideas. Foster them and let them grow. Remember that you can learn anything! In September you didn't know half the words you know now. That's a lot of learning. Don't forget how good you can be. You are amazing! Keep doing great things.
Take care of each other. You will be together a long time. Look around you now. These are your buddies. You are stuck together and you need to stick by each other. In this little corner of the world, these are the people you can count on and your buddies will need to count on you too. Be there for them. If you let each other down, say you're sorry. If they let you down, forgive them. Don't forget what it feels like to help someone up and what it means to be a friend. There is something special about the people you spend first grade with.
Take care of the Earth. We learned so much this year about different cultures, the Native Americans, the Inuit, the Colonists and we know now how important our Earth is. You know why the Colonists lived near the water, and how every different culture depends on the water. You grow because of water. Take care of it. My generation didn't do so well. It's going to be up to you to teach us how to make things better. It's not so important to produce more if we don't know where it's going to end up.
So I have one question for you - Will you always be this good?"
"Yes, Mrs. Miles, we will always be this good!
We will even be good in high school!
I'll even be good to my brother!
We will even be good in college!
I will even be a good dad!"
I gave them each one last hug and they walked out of my room, but never out of my heart. Good bye! Be good!