Make Graduation Meaningful
Whether graduating from kindergarten to grade one, middle school to high school, or high school to higher education, graduation is a rite of passage. It’s one of life’s important milestones, and it’s a reason to celebrate.
Traditionally, graduation is thought of as an opportunity to celebrate achievements from the past year. However, in terms of education, graduation is much more than a chance to wear fancy clothes and party with friends and family.
Graduation is a time for preparation. It’s a time to consider what comes next. Another word for graduation is commencement, which means to begin. So that means that graduation is not really an ending; it’s a beginning.
Graduation is about saying goodbye to the past and welcoming the next phase in life.
It’s also an opportunity to erase mistakes of past years, to overcome obstacles, and to step forward with a renewed sense of possibility.
So how do you help your child—no matter what age—prepare for what comes next?
Review the past—use the approaching graduation to take note of what has been learned over the previous years. Ask students about highlights from particular grades. Encourage them to think actively about why a particular moment/subject/lesson left a lasting impression. Be sure to review the least favourite experiences as well. The most disliked subjects tend to repeat year after year. In identifying and discussing trouble spots, students develop self-awareness about their learning that helps them take responsibility for their education. Tip: offer reminders to students: remember how much fun you had working on the hot air balloon project? Remember how frustrated geometry homework made you?
Discuss—Now that the graduation celebrations are over, it’s time to start thinking—and talking—about what’s next. For younger kids, it’s good to wonder out loud about what they can expect in the next grade level. Will you like having a locker? What do you think about changing classrooms for every class? For highschoolers heading off to college or university, discuss what might be the most likely learning obstacles. Regardless of age group, always steer conversations toward positive outcomes. The sooner that kids start thinking about what’s next in a positive way, the more likely that they’ll feel positive about the next phase.
Prepare/Research—the more informed that students are about what they can expect, the more likely that they are to feel confident. Take some time to research what to expect in September. Maybe next year will be the first time that your child will have to read Shakespeare, or it’s the first time in a new part of the school. Contact schools to find out teacher names, or email for a list of what to expect next year. Teens heading off to college should take a campus tour and take part in any and all freshman groups and programs.
Set goals—Now that you’ve reviewed past accomplishments, researched, and discussed what to expect in the coming year, it’s time to set goals. Goal setting doesn’t have to be a complicated task. Even young children can learn to set goals. Students of all ages should start thinking about what they would like to accomplish next year. Have them make “Next year, I would like to…”statements where they fill in the blanks. EG: Next year I would like to…raise my hand in class more, make a new friend, improve in math, make sure that I ask for help when I need it, etc.
By reviewing, discussing, and planning for next year, you can transform the graduation experience from just being a single day to celebrate and make it a meaningful part of the bigger educational experience.