This afternoon my 8th grade students graduated from middle school. I love the way my school conducts a recognition ceremony. The choir sings, our teacher of the year, student council president and principal speak, and then each team gets to take to the stage, where we, the teachers, get to acknowledge and hug each 8th grader as they walk across to accept their certificate. And then, in what is always an emotional moment, the ceremony is closed with a video montage of photos of the the entire class, taken over the course of the year. It doesn't matter how many of these ceremonies I have attended, but I always choke up on the closing image: footage of the entire class sitting in the bleachers of our gym, waving goodbye.
I am so thankful for all of the graduation ceremonies I've attended as an educator, as well as the ones that I have attended as a family member or friend of the graduate, not to mention my own three graduations. It's such a wonderful tradition, a formal acknowledgement one's accomplishments. And yet it's also a way to mark time, to take a moment to register the passing of our lives. In that sense graduations are bittersweet: it's exciting to be moving forward, sad to feel like you're leaving something behind. But it's because of that bittersweet nature that graduations are so special: they are a reminder that, while we get lost in the hecticness of each day, they are, in fact, building on one another, ultimately leading to an end, a transition to the next chapter of our lives.