Monday, April 30, 2012

"When I Grow Up..." An Idea for Elementary Principals

During my years as an elementary school principal, one of the parts of the spring "Awards Day" ceremony was Kindergarten Graduation. Prior to the event, the kindergarten teachers asked each student what they wanted to be when they grew up and why, with emphasis on the why.

On Awards Day, the kindergarteners were lined up off stage, each student wearing a graduation cap. As I called the name of a student, he or she walked across the stage to receive a diploma from the appropriate teacher. As the student walked across the stage, I would read, "When I grow up, I want to be a ______________ because _____________________." The "because" was always the most interesting part!

I could stop there, and it might well provide someone with idea to add to his or her own end-of-year activity. The real purpose of this post is to tell you what happened six years later.

You see, each year I would aave the script from Awards Day. My 7th year as principal at that school, the first class of kindergartens were now 6th graders, the upper grade in our school. Prior to that last Awards Day for them, we would practice their part of the program. As we completed that practice, I would mention very casually, "Some of you have been with us for a very long time...every since kindergarten." Nobody had a clue was was about to happen.

I turned to a student and said, "Do you remember walking across this very stage as I said, 'When I grow up, I want to be a.....'" I would read from the script I had saved from six years before! Then I would mention another student and do the same thing. By the third student, they knew what was happening. We went through each one of them, what they said they wanted to be, and why.

One of the most memorable points came with two close friends whose names were adjacent in the alphabet, and whose goals were therefore read back-to-back. Each said he wanted to be a "policeman." Their "whys" were very different. While one wanted to be a policeman to "help people," the other wanted to be a policeman so he could "ride motorcycles." Amazing how two totally different rationales brought about the same future wish.

We all look for neat traditions that don't put a great deal of stress and strain on our already full agendas. Saving those Awards Day scripts and reminding students as they are about to leave what they had said when they began the journey was one of those easy ways to close their elementary school experience.

In the next post, I will share another one which was easy and meant a great deal to both the students and the staff.

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