Tonight, my son "graduated" from 8th grade. No diplomas were handed out, but each kid got a backpack with goodies in it, and an envelope from the teachers with a quote picked out especially for that child. The class teacher (in this case, also my son's homeroom teacher) was the master of ceremonies and had pulled this whole thing together. She welcomed everyone and introduced the principal who gave a quick speech. This was her first year as a principal - I think she was just a little nervous! She was followed by a powerpoint presentation with pictures of the kids doing the stuff kids do in school. My boy was front and center, acting the clown in a number of those pictures.
Then it was my turn. At the planning meeting, the class teacher didn't have a speaker lined up and wasn't sure what to do about it. I thought about that on the way home and decided to try my hand at writing a speech for 8th grade ears. It turned out pretty well, so I emailed her and volunteered to be the speaker if she didn't have someone else. There was no one else, so it was gonna be me. I tweaked it a bit - and of course when delivering a speech live, you don't want to look like you're reading, so there were a couple of times when I added a sentence or two - or skipped a phrase, but this is basically what I said:
You’re probably looking at me right now and wondering why I’m up here to speak to you. I’m not rich or famous – at least as far as you know. I’m not a politician or a model or business person. I’m not a singer. Actually, I know for a fact that if I tried to sing to you, Z would be horrified.
Z’s my son, you see. And he’s the reason I’m standing here today. These last few weeks, we’ve been talking about the end of the school year… Exams, the DC trip, and looking forward to high school. I’m standing here because I’m a mom who’s been remembering her own move from middle school to high school and I thought I’d share a little bit about that with you.
It doesn't seem like it was that long ago, but it's been 34 years. I was excited AND terrified. My middle school was a pretty good size, but the high school I was going to was HUGE. I was afraid that I'd get lost. Or that I'd never have enough time to use the bathroom. Or that I wouldn't have any friends. Or that the school work would be too much for me.
I only got lost once - mostly because I didn't go to the Orientation night and finding the gym was a little trickier than I realized (I mean, a gym's a pretty big building, right? How hard could it be to find?). Take a tip from me – GO TO ORIENTATION.
High school campuses are really big... And classes are ALWAYS scheduled as far away from each other as possible. I remember one time I had a class on the third floor and my next class was in a portable across the school and THEN across the football field! Weirdly, I was never late. And my bladder didn't explode either.
I didn't have a lot of friends, but I had a few - and really, that was all I needed anyway. It's been 34 years since I graduated high school and I still have quite a few of those friends from way back when. Don't worry - you'll have friends too.
· As for school work, it is what you make of it. I wish I'd made more of mine. I was a pretty smart kid, on the honor roll with all As and Bs (and a D in Science once - I still don't know what happened there). I made those grades without even really trying - but these days I wonder... What if I had applied myself to my studies? What might I have accomplished? No matter where you are in terms of ability, if you do your best and make the most of these new learning opportunities, maybe you won't look back in 10, 20, or even 34 years and wish you'd been more invested in the things you were learning in high school.
I I have to add this here... Treasure your teachers, past AND present. I can't tell you what Imagine has meant to my son and to us as his parents. You teachers are what made our time here so special. I won't name you all because I know I'll miss someone and I don't want to hurt feelings by leaving someone out - but I want to thank Mrs. Dixon in particular. You brought the magic back to math for Z and you don't know just what a gift that has been to him.
You are a wonderful bunch of people. Don't worry about high school – be yourself and you'll be just fine.
There was applause and I went back to my seat hoping that the kids got something out of it. As soon as I reached my seat, two students got up and performed "Unwritten" by Natasha Benefield - a song I love. And then it was time for the kids to go up one by one and shake Mr. A's hand, receive a certificate if they were on the honor roll, get their quote envelope and their bag - a picture taken of each one and back to their seats. It didn't take long as there were only 22 kids in the class.
And then? Party time!
One of the things I've just loved about this school is that it let my boy become a person with friends. Not just guys who hang out, but girls too. There's a whole little group of "nerds" who hang out together. They play computer games with each other, talk and hang out together at school. I'm so glad that most of them are also going to the same school next year as my boy. They're all good kids and I'm proud that my son calls them friends.
Missing a couple of guys from the group...
Almost all of them are going to Washington, DC tonight. There's time to go home, pack stuff, maybe do a little laundry if needed and grab a nap - then we all meet at the bus at 2am! Almost pointless to go to bed. Z won't - he can sleep on the bus, but tomorrow I have to go to work. Sit in on a meeting. Get stuff done - so if you'll excuse me now, I'm going to shut my eyes for a little bit. It's been a long, exciting day!