Friday, May 27, 2011

Middle School Promotion Ceremony Speech

On behalf of the Board of Education of District 118, I would like to welcome family, friends, District 118 staff, and students to these promotion exercises. I would like to talk to both students and parents today about the transition you are both making from middle school to high school. I say both because parents have a transition to go through as well.    

Those of you parents who have had older children at the high school know that having a high school student is very different from having a middle school student. Your role in your child’s life will change dramatically over the next four years. And it should change. We know that in four years many of these students will be moving on to a life in which you are not present on a day to day basis. Whether they are moving on to college or choosing military service or going off to work, there is a good chance that they will not be living at home. They will not have you to monitor their every action and to help them out of every bad situation. When they oversleep and miss a class at U of I, you can’t call them in and have them excused. You can’t call their professors and find out what your son or daughter can do to improve their grade. I remember going with my older son to the University of Illinois at Chicago parent/student orientation and finding out that we parents would not be getting any information from the university about our kids. No progress reports, no copies of their schedule, no grades of any kind. All reports would go directly to the students. “How do we find out how they are doing?” we wanted to know. “You will have to ask them,” we are told by the university. That is very different from your middle school experience, I’m sure. Now as a high school parent, you are not cast adrift like a college parent is. Your children will still need boundaries and supervision as they go through high school, but you do need to prepare your son or daughter for the time when they will be solely responsible for their actions. They need to learn how to advocate for themselves. They need to talk with teachers about what they can do if they get off track. They need to take responsibility when they make a mistake and suffer some penalties. And you need to let them suffer the penalties and learn from them. The next four years can be exciting for you parents. You can be involved in going to football, soccer, and softball games, watching your kids perform in band or choir, supporting their involvement in the musical or other extracurricular activities, seeing them all dressed up heading off to prom or homecoming dances. This is a great high school and I hope you get involved as a spectator in all the activities that are going on.    

Students, I’m going off on a tangent for a moment, but I am really excited about the big movies that are coming out this summer: the final Harry Potter movie, all the comic book movies like Thor and Green Lantern, and even a movie based on a book I read as a child 50 years ago, Mr. Popper’s Penguins. I was discussing these movies with a friend who took quite a few film criticism courses in college and we were talking about how movies and TV shows, even those about ordinary things, differed from real life. And he remembered a sentence quoted by one of his professors that describes the fact that movies and TV shows are all about editing transitions. “The idea of A becoming B, rather than A jumping to B, has become foreign.” And that quote stuck in my head. You might be able to picture yourself as a high school senior on a day similar to this one, wearing a graduation gown and being ready to move on to work or to college or to the military, but unlike the movies, we don’t just jump from now to then. It will take four years for you to become that graduating senior. And what you do in the next four years will affect the way you view high school as a graduating senior. Over the next four years, there will be more choices for classes than you've ever had: architectural drafting, physics, calculus, and psychology to name just a few. Extracurricular activities like the Spanish Club, Scholastic Bowl, the school Newspaper, and Pep Band can help make you a more well-rounded individual. Athletic teams like golf, football, soccer, and softball can challenge you mentally as well as physically. There will be over 1300 students at the high school next year. Somewhere there you will find someone who appreciates you for who you are. Or if it's time to effect a change in your image, this is the year to do it. Find a new group to belong to, new activities to try. You are responsible for who you will be next fall. Don't let high school just happen to you. Take part and you will find the rewards are great. Four years will pass quickly and you will have become the young adult you hope to be.    

Thank you.   

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