We've hit the mid-point of June on the calendar. In a High School that means sports and extra-curriculars are at an end, Field Trips are done, Prom has come and gone, awards banquets abound and we are only a few days away from the beginning of exams. Classes are reviewing a semester full of work and today we had our year end assembly where we said good-bye to staff who are retiring or moving on to new assignments. Looming ahead of us is the crowning achievement of the school year, Commencement. I know that many schools hold their ceremony in October, but ours is always on the last Thursday in June. Preparations are well underway. The Commencement Committee is working madly behind the scenes to make the evening memorable.
Jump forward to the big night: The heat of the gym where we hold the festivities is oppressive. The Graduates are sweating in their caps and gowns. The crowd is standing room only as family and friends come to see their Graduate cross the stage and hear the Valedictorian's message of hope for the future. Everyone is a little tired, perhaps a little cranky from the heat, but full of excitement, because Commencement is the most important night of the school year. It's the night where everyone's hard work is celebrated, where students show how they have grown, matured, and earned their way out of our building and on to the next step of their lives, be it the world of work or on to post secondary studies at the institution of higher learning of their choice. It comes at the end of the month, at the end of the school year and it is the end of their tenure in our building. It is an ending. But, it's also a beginning (Cue "The Circle of Life" theme from Disney's The Lion King).
If you look at the Oxford English dictionary definition of the word Commencement, it is "the beginning of something." For our students, it is the beginning of their adulthood as they move on to jobs, academia, apprenticeships and life after High School. For staff, it may be on to new roles in the Board, new schools, retirement, or it could be viewed as the beginning of the next class of future graduates who will join us in September.
Right or wrong, I often think of Commencement as my own culminating activity. The time, and the work, and the investment I've made in my students since their arrival in Grade 9 is about to pay off. My work with these amazing young people is done and they are on to new adventures. So it really is both an ending, and a beginning.
Wether your Graduate is commencing from Kindergarten, Elementary School, Middle School, High School or Post Secondary School, a new job or a new role or a new adventure, wether you view this as an ending or a beginning, or just a short breather as they move on to their next step...celebrate it! Take pictures, share a congratulatory hug or handshake, eat some cake, really revel in the moment. Because you know what? It really is a big deal.