Friday, May 04, 2012

How Will You Say Goodbye to Graduates?

This month, schools everywhere are planning activities which will send its graduates to the next stages in their lives. I this post, I share one such tradition we started in the elementary school where I was principal. It was designed to add a keepsake for each of our students as they left us for junior high.

On Awards Day, each 6th grade student walked across the auditorium stage to receive his or her diploma. With it was another piece of paper. Except for the name, the wording was the same:

Dear {Name of student}, 

Your completion of elementary school is a big step in your education. At Graham, we congratulate you on the interest and dedication which have brought you to this important milestone in your life. 

Your learning experiences, however, have only begun. It is our hope that you will approach the next grades with eagerness equal to your abilities and take advantage of the many wonderful opportunities open to you. 

 It has been our pleasure to have been associated with you through your elementary school years. We are convinced that this school will always be proud of you as you progress along education’s path. 

We shall continue to watch your achievements with interest and pride. 

Best wishes, 

What made the letters unique were the signatures at the bottom. Each letter was signed by the adults in the building who had formed a relationship with that student. No two students had the same set of signatures.

The process was simple. I had created the text of the letter and mail merged it to a spreadsheet. The names of our 6th grade students were pasted into that spreadsheet. We then were able to print a set of letters, each with the same text except for the student's first being inserted.

In a faculty meeting, I explained the process. I had signed all of the letters and passed the folder to the 6th grade teachers. Since we did some changing of classes, the 6th grade teachers signed all of the letters. The folder would then be passed to the 5th grade teachers. They would sign letters for any of the student they had taught or any student who whom they had established any sort of relationship. Over the next couple of weeks, the folder would work its way to each grade level, to the music teacher, librarian, counselor, lunchroom staff, and custodians.

Any staff member could sign any letter they wished. When the folder was returned to me, it contained letters rich with signatures of the people who had worked with each student though the years.

On Awards Day, each 6th grade student received a letter with good wishes for the future and the signatures of the people who had helped shape elementary school memories.

Several other principals with whom I have shared this idea also use it successfully. As you are planning the close of this school year, perhaps this idea is one you can use.

What end-of-school traditions do you have at your school that might benefit others?

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