Friday, June 09, 2006

End-of-year Nostalgia, Part II

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Yesterday was not a ten-hanky day, but it did have its share of poignant moments. Splinter's kindergarten class had an adorable presentation for the parents. At the end the teacher gave out all sorts of awards. Call me a curmudgeon, but it irks me the way today's kids get trophies just for tying their shoes. Oops, bad example, after so many years of Velcro-closure shoes my boys could actually use the incentive of a trophy to brush up on their shoe-tying. Okay how about this: trophies are so ubiquitous these days it's like they get one every time they use the potty correctly. Dang, another bad example (if you have boys you know what I mean. I think I would call my memoir of my boys' preschool years Sitting in Boy Pee). If you are a parent in the U.S. with children under the age of 15, you probably know what I mean about the trophy thing.

But this award ceremony was different. It was different because it was meaningful, not just to the parents, but to the children. Almost every award she gave out was delivered with very specific verbal praise for the recipient. As she addressed the children, I got this sense that I was watching them get imprinted for life. Mrs. P. has touched them deeply.

I attended the beautiful evening graduation ceremony. Given that there were only 11 graduates (the largest class ever!) I was a bit surprised that it took two hours, but there were honors and awards given out as well as several choral interludes. Each graduate made a short speech- graduate gratitudes- they call them. I know that graduates are even more prone to end-of-year nostalgia than I am, and I'm sure they all received some coaching on their speeches, but it seemed that much of their gratitude was genuine.

Here are a few thoughts that grabbed me:

"Some crackpot shrink said I was mentally disabled, but, thankfully, my parents didn't listen to that and sent me here." (Here being a private school for gifted children)

"I wish I had learned about this school sooner and could have attended longer."

"Gifted education is not about teaching smart kids, it's about figuring out how kids are smart and helping them learn to their style…. I didn't just learn things here, I leaned about things."

"I'd like to thank my parents who worked second jobs and drove me 8.9 miles to school every day, so I could be a student at this school." (Note: if the drive doesn't sound too bad, consider that in our major metropolitan area one typically can get virtually all of her needs met within about a 3 miles).

"When I first visited the school, I thought it was going to be filled with kids with thick glasses, ginormous braces and pocket protectors. Instead, I found people who 'spoke my language.'"

The keynote speaker read Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, a book I've always disliked. Why does that foolish tree give away everything to make this boy happy when he does nothing in return for her? Take, take, and then take some more; that's all he does. Even as a child, long before I'd ever heard the word co-dependent, I knew something was not right about that relationship between the boy and the tree.

The speaker, however, used the story to illustrate the joy in sharing ones gifts; the benefits of reaching out and helping others (as long as the others don’t destroy you, she might have added, but this would have changed the tone a bit). I will keep her words in mind next time I encounter that story.

I admit that I choke up when the tuition bill arrives and not in a sweet or nostalgic way, but I am so pleased that we transferred the boys to this school. In this one year, it's clear that they've grown socially and emotionally, not to mention academically. Smartypants is already counting down the days until summer school starts!

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