Friday, May 28, 2010

A Graduate Emerges

Yesterday was Brynna's Montessori graduation.

I may have mentioned how I woke up sick on Wednesday. Well, yesterday was no better. In fact, yesterday was markedly worse. I laid in bed all morning, threw on clothes, went to graduation, went home and got back in bed.

But, still, I wanted to tell you about this graduation. You know, I understand that I brag on my kid's school a lot. I understand that it may be annoying, but I do this because they rock.

The graduation was a beautiful event. The room was packed with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends. I was honestly surprised at just how many people were there to support ten graduates. The school has about 40 kids total in two classes, ideally one-third graduates each year. We were slightly low this year, with only ten graduates, but it's a good looking group, anyway, right? Brynna is second from the left, by the way. Look at that gorgeous hair. I got very few shots of her face, so I am appreciating her hair.

The standing children in the above shot are the graduates and the sitting kids are the extended day students (go all day, instead of half a day) who are not graduating this year. I feel that there should be more, but I'm not sure how big the extended day classes are. I know I should know this, being on the Board and all, but whatevs.

The children entered, paraded around the room and then sang and signed some lovely songs. I love that they learn a good deal of their music in sign language as well as sung.

Then, they did the stepping stone ceremony. You can see the stones above. The child's teachers sat by each stone, holding a basket of pebbles. The three stones represented the three years of the Montessori program. At Brynna's turn, her name was called and she was given a small golden bag. As she stepped on each of the stones, the corresponding teacher would place a small pebble (the knowledge and experience learned that year) in her golden bag.

The teachers and I cried through most of this.

The ceremony was personalized for students who took a different approach to Montessori. (For example, one student received two pebbles on the first stone because she had gone four years instead of three.)

This tiny ceremony is perfectly representative of why I love Montessori. There could have been more music or a speech that the kids wouldn't have paid even a little attention to. But instead, they took a moment to do a hands-on activity to recreate the learning process. This activity was meaningful to the students, who understood the symbolism, perhaps better than I. It made them active participants and showed them that their place in the learning process isn't static. The teachers, rather, are static, imparting knowledge on each child as they pass through, but the children are the drivers, responsible for holding the bag open, for making the next step. At the end, they moved off the stepping stone path and were ready for whatever the next path may be.

I have recently been told by a couple of people that they didn't feel their kids were "cut out" for Montessori, as they weren't independently minded or they were rambunctious. To this I say, "Pish posh!" That is, in fact, the wonder of Montessori. Every child is encouraged to be themselves, to embrace their strengths, practice their weaknesses, love their passions and walk their own path, regardless of anyone else. Every lesson is personal, every work one option of many, every child honored and respected in their own way.

After the stepping stone ceremony, the children were presented with a gift. This gift, they were told, must be cherished and cared for, because it was the only one like it in the world. The children, themselves, would be held responsible for taking care of their gift. When the children were presented with their little hand-painted wooden boxes and instructed to open them, they found inside - mirrors. This little bit was a very small part of the ceremony, and yet, I thought it had the biggest impact. The children were given, not just the right, but the responsibility to care for and cherish themselves.

After the ceremony ended, Brynna cried almost all afternoon. Because she doesn't want to grow up. Because she doesn't want to leave Susie-Belle (name changed to protect the innocent) behind in Montessori while she goes to Big School. Because she'll miss her teachers. Because Holly (name changed yadda, yadda) is going to a different school than her and because Amber (name whatever) is going to the same school but may not be in the same class.

She was nearly inconsolable. And I, well, I was worried about my humanity for the past week or so because I wasn't torn up and weepy about my little girl and her first graduation. Well, worry no more, sickness and a crying child took care of that. We sort of had a weep-off. The results are not yet in.

I cried, not just because my little girl is growing up, not just because I worry that the teach-to-the-middle-and-ignore-the-rest mentality rampant in public school will squash my little artists' heart, but also, I cried because I am so proud of who she is.

I am proud of her reading and her writing, her story telling and her art, her friendships and her love for her teachers. I am proud of how much she has grown and learned while in Montessori. I am proud of how much she has overcome. I am proud that her greatest regret was not finishing her reading list. I am proud of her leaf rubbings and her nature collections. I am proud of her fierce spirit and her gentle hands.

But mostly, I am proud that she recognized that although a graduation is a time of celebration, it's also a time of mourning. A time to mourn what you are leaving behind and stand tall with tears in your eyes as you step off those stepping stones into the world beyond.


jodifur said...

this is a beautiful post.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

Okay, you REALLY need to stop posting stuff like this that will make me cry when I read it at work. Beautiful!