How often do we set aside time to honor students as they travel along their academic pathway? Not being an elementary teacher, I may be wrong, but I would like to think that each year there is some process of honoring the students of the class as they finish out the year. Do other event happen during the course of the year? As students move into middle school, the fragmentation of their education often begins. Focus moves towards mastery of content and students see different teachers for different subjects. Events that bring students together to celebrate what they have done take more planning and may disappear. School doesn’t have to be this way, but it often is.
Celebrations are important. Culminating events after a unit of learning are important because students are provided the opportunity to look back and see what they have done. Parent involvement in these events take the letters off of a report card and give parents a view into the work of their students. Units with a culminating event in mind often require quality work by students. Their work is polished and individualized to showcase abilities in addition to academic goals. Artwork, dramatic presentations, explanations of concepts are various avenues for students.
What about academic milestones? Emphasis has been placed on completing elementary, middle and high school. These finishing points need to be a time for students to showcase both their time in the respective academic setting and who they currently are. Many students take on hobbies and interests during middle school that define who they are but may not show up in the classroom. It took an evening around a campfire during a class trip to realize that a reticent student was actually an amazing human drum machine. So, how can a culminating ceremony at the end of middle school be designed to honor the talents of students while moving them forward to the next level of their academic journey?
A few ideas…
- Center the event around students – it’s about them, right?
- Does the ceremony capture the heritages of students involved?
- Are student passions represented? This may vary year to year but there always seems to be students who play music, act or have artwork.
- Who is speaking? Do students address their peers and the audience? Do students from the “next level” provide nuggets of wisdom?
- Are photographs taken from the “journey” shown? I’m always amazed as to how much a student changes from 6th to 8th grade. What are key steps along the way that capture this process?
- Is there a symbolic movement to the next “level”? This may be more challenging in some schools but schools that cover a range of academic levels should be able to do something meaningful.
- Parents and meaningful adults – how are these people involved? They are the support system of students and also need to sit back and smile, laugh and cherish the memories of the past years.
- Academic achievements – each student has achieved in some way or another. How can portfolios (or other items) be collected and displayed to recognize be