Thank you newly minted Middle School students and thank you Mr. Heavner for such beautiful music. That may be my favorite rendition of Katy Perry’s Firework ever! In fact, I’ve been so in “awe-awe-awe” of your work with your commencement song that I decided to focus my remarks on this song and what it says about you as a class.I’d like to tell you about the process that lead to the Class of 2023’s song selection because it is so emblematic of who these wonderful students are. Mr. Heavner worked with the students to discern the difference between graduation and commencement. Graduation is a measured point of achievement along a journey. Graduation is an important time to notice how much we have learned and grown and this is why students are graduated from their grade each year. Commencement, which we are celebrating together today, represents beginning something new and exciting. These students have completed Lower School and are now moving on to new adventures in learning in Middle School.
In preparation for this big transition, this class named the values and treasured relationships they hope to carry with them to the Middle School: love, family, friendship, learning, memories, teachers, gratitude, fun, maturity, persistence, responsibility, and courage.
Using these words as inspiration, the students designed a reflective and inclusive process to winnow down their selection. After discussions in small groups, a number of songs were deemed acceptable by everyone, and the class voted. What we just enjoyed was the result of this thoughtful, collaborative, democratic, and meaningful process.
Rising sixth grade, it is clear to me that you chose this song because at some point in your relationships with the people here to celebrate you today, in addition to making them go “oh, oh, oh,” you have made ‘em go oh (shock) oh (delight) oh (portending). No? That’s not why? OK, I’ll try again.
I think you understand that “it’s always been inside of you, you, you” growing and building friendships and learning from your mistakes and successes in Lower School and “now it’s time to let it through ooh ooh” in Middle School. You appreciate that “there is a spark in you” and in each of your classmates and you now have the wisdom and courage to “let your colors burst” in your new adventures. Think of how much more you are able to do now than when you were in Pre-K; it’s kind of amazing. You have grown from those adorable babies we just admired in the slide show to capable and competent students who can toss balls and greet each other simultaneously during Morning Meeting. During my day as a fifth grader, I participated in this activity and you know that I needed your support and coaching to get through. You can conduct a Socratic discussion of The Thief Lord and carry out a mission to Mars. You can transport an audience to Neverland with your set design, singing, dancing, and acting. At McKeever, you established yourselves as environmentalists, adventurers, and kids who can survive for a whole week away from your parents.
You have learned to take thoughtful risks, to include and stand up for others, to communicate your thoughts clearly and respectfully, to learn from your mistakes and to forgive others when they make mistakes. You’ve learned that learning never ends and is a process that happens in the classroom, on the playing fields, in music rooms, in conversations with friends and family, at play practice, in communion with a good book. In short, you are well prepared to be lifelong learners. You now have the skills and understanding to help you to “open the door that leads you to the perfect road.”
I speak on behalf of the entire Lower School faculty when I tell you that “you’re original, cannot be replaced.” There will be other fifth graders who will be unique and special in their own ways, but they will never be you. You have “ignited your light and let it shine” as individuals and as a cohort and you are leaving us “going oh, oh, oh” with pride and respect for you. It has been a privilege and an honor to be a part of the beginning of your educations and we hope that you will keep in touch and come back to visit your Lower School home. Congratulations to the Class of 2023!