June 2, 2012

Rites of Passage

One of the units in the Spanish class that many of my students take is about rites of passage. Of course, learning about the quinceañera is rite of passage that kicks off this idea that many, many cultures go through rites of passage.

Although my students may not fully realize it, they are going through a series of passages themselves this week as they end their time in middle school. This past Wednesday, we had awards night to celebrate our top students. Friday was the semi-formal dance for 8th graders only, and on the last day of school, after we usher all 6th and 7th graders off campus, we'll celebrate 8th graders being promoted to high school in a short ceremony in the gym.

All of these occasions give students opportunities to dress in their best clothing, something that shows more style than their standard blue and gray polo shirts. With the boys in combed hair and pressed shirts and the girls in their impossibly high heels, I start to image what they might look like four years from now as they graduate high school--or sometimes I even imagine them after college in their successful careers and as caring parents to small children. I'm no fortune teller, but sometimes I feel as if I can see the people they will become. It's pretty exciting!

Some of the students do not realize what a special time this week is for them. Many had no desire to attend the dance, to wear something nice and spend time with their friends. A few are balking at having to attend the promotion ceremony, which is also optional. I'm sympathetic to their feelings on this time, as I am not the type of person who enjoys a big to-do either. Perhaps these moments are partially for loved ones to celebrate the rites of passages for our young ones. If nothing else, I do hope my students are reflecting back on their time--briefly--and looking forward to the adventures that await them.

I know that middle school completion is not that big of a deal. Seriously, what does completing middle school get a young person? Not much. A ticket to high school? Uhm...wahoo? Oh, for most of my students, their success in middle school has opened opportunities to better high schools, but ultimately, finishing middle school is really not that big of a deal in the scope of life.

If we're talking about the scope of life, the long road, the journeys, the quests, why celebrate the little successes along the way? Why not embrace the celebrations?

I know some of my students balk at the idea of this week being a rite of passage for them, while others are too well aware, and maybe a little more freaked out or emotional than usual. Whatever it is to them, I hope they will accept the handshakes and hugs and just enjoy the moment.


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