Tuesday, June 19, 2012

5th Grade 'Culmination' as Seen from the Sidelines

Ander has known these kids since his first day of kindergarten. 

We were all part of the school's inaugural kindergarten class, and along with a couple of classrooms full of first graders, we were the whole school back then. The school grew by one grade each year, and with that 'cushion' of older kids one year ahead of us, we all believed it would keep growing right through middle school. 

But after the school moved to its third, current (and very pricey) location when Ander was a 4th grader, it became evident that there was no money to grow the school beyond 6th -- at least not in time for Alexander. 

So for 5th grade, Ander transfered to another charter school -- one that has its middle school charter funded and in place.  (His new school calls 4th-8th 'middle' school,' had only grown up to 4th, and needed to pull in 5th graders to keep its 4th graders company on the new middle school campus.) 

Meanwhile, Ander's old classmates have been scrambling to navigate the labyrinthian system of middle school magnets and specialized charters.  Most of them will be attending 6th-8th grades at a local magnet.  Another big chunk have been accepted at a fine arts charter middle school. A handful are waiting another year to make the leap, perhaps still hopeful that the school might grow another grade, or two, or three.

Today most of those first kindergartners and first graders officially outgrew the school with which they had grown up. And although Ander wasn't going to be walking across the stage with them, he wanted to be there.  So we dressed up a bit, sprung Aliza from class, and staked out some prime folding chairs.

I'm really not a fan of all these so-called graduations and culminations for preschool and kindergarten and leaving-grade-school and leaving-middle-school.  I feel like it's all a bit artificial, and that it just pushes all these emotional buttons in the parents who are really just remembering their own high school graduations.   The soundcheck was all manipulative, overwrought movie soundtrack music, and snippets of that Pavlovian tear-inducer "Pomp and Circumstance."  It was really, really hot out there on the blacktop.  And the new principal -- who has only known these kids since December -- spoke too long, gave advice for Middle School that didn't apply to the sorts of school most of these kids will be attending, and wrapped up by telling us that this school "is ONE OF the best schools in L.A."  

But then:
the children sang, and the Chicken Dude gave a sweet and funny speech, and there was more singing, and they read the names of all these children we've known for so long, and they walked across the stage so tall and fancy and proud, and it was beautiful and felt like the end of something and the beginning of something and I wished so much that Ander could have been up there with his old classmates.

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