Fourth graders: CONGRATULATIONS! You did it! And we could not be more proud of you. In Wonder, author R. J. Palacio wrote that “the best way to measure how much you've grown isn't by inches or by the number of laps you can now run... or even by your grades—though these things are important, to be sure. It's what you've done with your time, how you've chosen to spend your days, and whom you've touched this year. That, to us, is the greatest measure of success.” And when we measure your success that way, OH MY HOW YOU’VE GROWN—as students, as people, and as leaders in the lower school.
At the start of this year, your teachers challenged you to think deeply about our Quaker values of community, kindness, and justice, and you all rose to that challenge. All year—in big gestures and small actions—you led with kindness, compassion, and courage, and the ripple effect of your actions was felt all across the lower school, and even into the larger DC community.
- We felt it during the Fun Concert when you all outdid yourselves with your thoughtfulness, your inclusivity in including other classes, and your exuberance as crazy bananas.
- It was felt at Martha’s Table by the thousands of pounds of vegetables you chopped and delivered in your time here.
- It was felt at Wider Circle when you showed up—boots on the ground—to serve the larger DC community.
- We felt it this spring when we got to munch on yummy popcorn and drink delicious lemonade and then later learned that you all had raised enough money to buy beds for NINE children in our area to have in order to have a great night’s sleep.
- We noticed it in the ways that you cheered for and celebrated our Pre-K and kindergarten students when they took risks, performed plays, and looked up to you as role models.
- It was felt by Lyft, which was inspired by your letters to extend their food justice program to serve families in Wards 8 and 9 throughout the summer.
- And it was felt by all the teachers who taught you, from Pre-K-4th grades, and described you as a class defined by your passion, your spirit and spunk, your compassion, your activism, and your sense of fun and adventure.
You are a class that has brought a lot of joy to our Lower School, so I thought I’d give you a trip down memory lane so that you could hear some of your teachers’ fondest memories of you.
Some of you joined our community in Pre-K and kindergarten, and those teachers remember your teeny tiny selves. They remember you learning to use kind words, figuring out how to cross the monkey bars for the first time, taking your problems to the “peace table” to work them out, and finding creative ways to design and build your own games!
Your 1st- and 2nd-grade teachers have vivid memories of you learning to read, losing all of your teeth, studying the indigenous peoples of North America, creating names for yourselves based on the characteristics you possessed, and playing gravel at recess.
And in 3rd grade, your teachers said that you always relished the opportunity to “Seize the Present!” They remember your boundless enthusiasm for school, your love of talking, and most importantly your excellent musical taste during lunchtime music requests. They also may have told us that you had some serious rock-knocking dance moves, which we caught a little glimpse of last week.
But this year has been our favorite year with each of you because you really came into your own as students, as people, and as friends—and we will miss you next year!
However, we know that you’re more than ready for the next big adventure: It’s time for you to leave your mark on our Middle School! As you go, I thought I’d remind you of some of the big ideas you learned in the Lower School that you can take with you next year.
As the daughter of a librarian, I think all good advice can be found in a book, and I also know you all are a BOOK-OBSESSED class, so this year’s advice comes from one of my (and I know your) all-time favorite books: Wonder.
- “Be kinder than necessary… because it’s not enough to just be kind. Be kinder than needed.” Mr. Tushman says this to his class in Wonder, and I say it to you today. In life—and next year in middle school—you will have so many little opportunities each day to make decisions about how you treat yourself and one another. Choose kindness! Be the first to say hello to someone. Step out of your comfort zone to sit with someone new at lunch. Stand up for someone when they are down. And allow yourself to make mistakes and get back up again.
- “You can’t blend it when you were born to stick out.” Be yourself! It sounds so easy, but it’s one of the hardest things you’ll do in life. Sometimes as we get older, we think that the best thing to do is to blend in, to conform to what everyone else is doing, to fit in. But in reality, getting older and going to middle school is the perfect time to think about the kind of person you want to be and to embrace everything that makes you unique, different, and interesting. Whether it’s your love of the arts, your competitiveness in athletics, or your love of learning, you all bring something unique and interesting to the table. The things that make you different are the things that make you YOU.
- And last but not least: Learn not only who you are, but what you are here to do. You are a class that notices issues of injustice and that grapples with big ideas like food insecurity, gender wage gaps, environmental stewardship, and poverty. We can’t wait to see all the ways that you all will let your lives speak as you move through the Middle School and leave an impact on the larger world.
Fourth graders: I am certainly going to miss ALL of you! But to quote Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky we are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Closing ceremony remarks by Lower School Principal, Adele Paynter.