Friday, June 24, 2011



When I was a kid, the first real graduation ceremony came at the end of high school. The second was at the end of college.

Now, graduations are everywhere. Yesterday The Boy graduated from the fourth grade. (Officially, it was a “moving up” ceremony, since fifth grade is held in a different building, but everyone called it graduation.)

It’d be easy to do the standard “Kids Today...” rant, so I won’t. If anything, the fourth grade version was much sweeter than the college version.

The dress code for the kids broke pretty clearly along gender lines; most of the girls wore pretty dresses, and most of the boys looked like they had just rolled out of bed. (To his credit, TB was dapper.) Since the ceremony was held in the un-air-conditioned cafetorium, nobody wore caps and gowns. The kids performed several songs as a chorus, including choreography and mass playing of recorders. The audio was terrible, the room dimly lit, and the cafeteria tables and benches uncomfortable and sticky.

But they did a slideshow that broke my heart. They showed a baby picture of a student, without a name, and wrote under it that student’s career ambition. Then they showed a current picture of the student, with his/her name. (Apparently, in 2000-1 someone passed a law that all girls had to be named Madison, Sophia, or Kayla. There wasn’t a Jennifer, Susan, or Ann in the entire fourth grade. And Hunter is the new Brian.) The combination of baby pictures, kid pictures, and career ambitions was better than any graduation speaker I’ve ever seen.

To judge from the slideshow, about twenty years from now we’ll be amply supplied with veterinarians, video game designers, teachers, basketball players, and -- surprisingly -- engineers. One kid wanted to be an “astroveterinarian,” which I assume would involve tending to ailing aliens. (“Open, uh, an orifice and say “ahhh...”) Another kid just wanted to own a mansion. One identified “rock star,” and one brave soul named “anything.”

We don’t do that in college. At this level, graduation is about the institution bestowing something upon recipients who have shown themselves worthy. In the fourth grade, it’s more like celebrating each individual kid, and trying to capture the memory before they get even taller.

Afterwards, we took TB and The Girl out to lunch to celebrate. The Girl, all of six, used air quotes correctly in doing a spot-on imitation of her art teacher. (“She tells us that if we talk while we’re painting, we lose (air quote) our power (air quote).” We all laughed out loud, even knowing we really shouldn’t.) Grandma, visiting for the occasion, presented TB with a “build your own skeleton hand” kit, which he had assembled by the end of the day, and which he used to pet the dog.

If this is what the next generation looks like, I feel much better about the future. And if this is what a fourth-grade graduation looks like, then I officially renounce the “Kids Today” huffing about graduations.

Rock on, TB. The fifth grade won’t know what hit it.

DD, you've got some really cool kids. Gives me hope for the future as well. I have fond memories of my 4th grade graduation. It was a graduation since our system was K-4, 5-6 (middle school), 7-8 (jr high) then 9-12. I think we sang "We are the world". And there I've dated myself.
With the exception of a few schools, I don't think getting out of fourth grade with ambitions intact has changed much over the years. Watch out for middle school, even in suburban districts. Based on students I talk to, that is where you are most likely to find teachers who should not be teaching math.

The other question is whether TB has been taught fractions and long division yet, and whether they will take an algorithmic or "look say" approach to teaching those critical subjects in fifth grade, and how they transition to algebra. Some wannabe engineers end up working for a while and then coming back to school at a CC because of breakdowns in middle school math.

Now, don't worry and enjoy the extra parking that comes with summer!

HASN'T changed much!
In these parts (Midsouthern Metropolis), Madison and Sophia are outdistanced only by "Olivia" as the go-to girl's name of 2000/2001. In my girl's class there's not a Hunter, but several others can be found in other classrooms of the same grade.

The fun of the promotion/"graduation" ceremonies lies in seeing and hearing the hopes as yet ublunted. My rising 4th-grader has changed her career goals a dozen times since she started kindergarten but she remains intent on doing something wonderful and helping others while doing it. AND she has figured out a lot of this fractions business. Next stop? Aliquot parts. Astroveterinary training can't be far off.

I'm not sure just why it is that public school systems have a hard time not dropping the ball in middle school. I recall some great teachers in my junior high school, including one take-no-prisoners math teacher who proudly campaigned for Bobby Kennedy (so there, Anonymous--I'm self-dated, too) and I bet that there ar still fine ones at this level--but districts tend to neglect the middle level in terms of resources, including the basic one: enough classrooms.
TG is hilarious.
Also, the slideshow sounds wonderful. I kind of wish we kept up with people's dreams as they got older- I think it'd be nice in college graduations too.
Somewhere, I think my parents still have an adorable picture of me painting in preschool that said I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I think it would be interesting to see slideshows of kids and career thoughts through the years. Remember to get one of TB at 8th grade and high school, maybe.

In fairness to the alien doctor, we do send animals into space, and it's a good thing we do since space travel has strange effects on the physiology of mammals that we need to understand better. It's a prerequisite for future space travel to have good astrovets!
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