Keith Dixon: Graduation prompts reflection on the journey of education
One of the great pleasures of serving as a school or district administrator is attending high school graduation ceremonies. There are so many sounds and images you remember and come to cherish. Young men and women decked out in cap and gown, smil...
One of the great pleasures of serving as a school or district administrator is attending high school graduation ceremonies.
There are so many sounds and images you remember and come to cherish. Young men and women decked out in cap and gown, smiling and jostling as they line up outside, the air around them fairly crackling with energy and anticipation. Seats packed from floor to ceiling with parents and family members, waiting to hear the name of their special young person called out. A sea of students walking in to the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" -- even after 30 years, the sight of those young men and women brings a tear to my eye. And it's fun to watch the faces of the students as they walk across the stage, shake hands with administrators and board members and receive their diplomas -- some with looks of delight, some acting as though it's no big deal and others sporting a look of amazement, stunned at their own accomplishment.
I especially enjoy listening to the student speakers talk about their high school days, what graduation means to them and the advice they give their classmates. This year one young lady talked about her experiences at school: the dear friends she made, the activities in which she participated, the teachers who supported and inspired her and the lessons she took away from her classes. She told her classmates that it's the memories you have that are important, because they are something you can keep in your heart forever, and no one can take them from you. I was impressed by such wise words.
I was also moved by a young man who talked about the uncertainty of life; the fact that no matter how hard we might try to achieve a certain goal or expect things to go a certain way, life may throw us a curve ball. He urged his classmates to embrace that uncertainty for the unseen opportunities and learning it may bring, and the excitement it adds to our lives. Such a mature perspective from a relatively young man.
Students learn many things in our classrooms, from math and reading to art and music. They make friends, learn how to get along with people, figure out how to function within a formal organization and discover, to some degree, who they are and what they value.
Perhaps most importantly, they learn how to learn.
That's a gift they'll carry for the rest of their lives, one nobody can take away. The ability to constantly learn enriches all aspects of life, from personal to professional, and helps us manage the times of challenge and times of joy.
During their time with us, I hope they also learn that what the young woman said at graduation this year is true: No matter what our age, what is important and lasting are the relationships we have with others, the experiences we share and the lessons we learn together.
Long after they leave our schools, students will remember the teachers who inspired them, the friends they made, the events, dances, concerts, and a hundred other memories that make their years in school so special. No one can take away those memories, and they'll warm the hearts of our students until the end of their days.
Best wishes to our graduates as they leave us to begin a new and exciting phase of their lives.
Keith Dixon is the superintendent of Duluth's schools. Call him at 336-8752 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .