I teach 4th grade at a Kindergarten through 4th grade school. When students leave my classroom, they make a transition to our community middle school, which holds grades five through eight. I live and work in a wonderful, small community, and many generations of my students’ families have come through these same schools. We have recently started having a “Moving Up” ceremony for our students on the last day of school. While we recognize that it isn’t really a graduation, it is a major moment of transition for our students and their families. We simply recognize each student in a nice ceremony, the principal makes a few remarks, and the students get a chance to feel special and recognized. We don’t do fancy speeches or even awards. Instead, we collectively recognize the accomplishments in our classes’ lives and send them off to the “big, bad middle school” with a bit of flair. Recently, I was thinking about what I might say to these students if there were a bit more formal pomp and circumstance. What would you tell a group of ten year olds who were on the verge of making an educational and life transition?
1. Be an advocate for yourselves. Children today must learn to stick up for their own educational rights and expectations. I sat in an IEP meeting today where a modification was written that the student had to ask for his extended time on writing assignments. While I don’t necessarily disagree with the way the modification is written, I have seen many middle and high school students who will not ask for (let alone demand) their modifications. Students, you need to know what you need to learn and be successful. No child should be quiet about standing up for his/her own right to learn. If you need it, ask for it! Know who you are as a learner.
2. Build a learning network. Learning is not a solo event. You have opportunities to learn around every corner. You have teachers in every area of your life. If you admire something that a friend can do and you cannot, become their student. If you want to learn about grizzly bears or jellyfish, seek out people and resources that can fill your academic appetite. Surround yourself with opportunities to learn things that you never knew were of interest to you. If you can become passionate about being a consumate learner, there’s nothing stopping you!
3. Be healthy. Sleep well each night. Eat right. Make good choices. Exercise. Enjoy your family. Pick your battles. Recognize what people are good for you and which ones are not. Understand that every reaction you have is a choice.
4. Go forward and serve. You are a member of a community, a county, a state, a country, a world. You can make a difference in the lives of others through seemingly small and random acts of kindness and honestly. And don’t be fooled. Every moment you give back in your community will repay your personal emotional well in exponential ways. So realize your importance. Recycle. Share. Offer to help. Pick up a piece of trash. No one is watching. Everyone is watching.
5. Live the life you hope for, not the one you have. There’s an old business saying that you should dress for the job you want, not for the one you have. You have the world at your fingertips. That’s been said a thousand times, but it’s more true now than ever. You’ve made connections around the world using your wiki, your blog and Skype calls. You’ve learned to express yourself from the head and from the heart. You are already recognizing the power that your words and actions have to affect change. And you are only ten years old. Imagine what you have in store for you! But you must continue to grasp for that open, honest and collaborative life of which you have already gotten a taste. You can. You’ve already proven it.
So what advice would you give ten year olds today? They aren’t exactly going out on their own or into the world, but they are setting a course. Would love to share your ideas with my students in the coming weeks.
Photo credit: “I’m Moving Up” by gr3m from Flickr
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