A few weeks ago, I overheard a friend of my daughter’s ask her why she was making such a big deal out of their upcoming fifth grade promotion. Theirs, like most San Francisco public elementary schools, is a K-5, from which the kids continue on to middle school. My daughter had been telling her friend what she planned to wear for the promotion ceremony, excited about the flowered, turquoise dress she had found and ordered for herself online.
“It’s just fifth grade,” her friend said with the cool indifference of an eleven-year-old going on sixteen.
While the girls soon switched to other topics, I kept thinking about the many reasons why this particular milestone in my daughter’s life is, in fact, so momentous . . .
Kids spend more time at their K-5 than at any other school, so moving on from it is a big deal! With middle school lasting three years, high school four, college another four, and then maybe an additional three or four years for an advanced degree, the time my daughter has spent at her K-5 is the longest she ever will be in any one place of learning. After six years, the school has become a part of her and she a part of it. Things like the names of her teachers and classmates, the topic she chose for her third grade San Francisco landmark report, and the school library’s cozy reading pit, will stay with her throughout her life.
Six years of incredible physical, emotional and academic growth deserves a good celebration! Comparing my daughter’s preschool graduation dress to the nearly adult-sized one she will wear to her fifth grade promotion ceremony puts in perspective the enormous growth my daughter has experienced in the past six years. The little girl who entered Kindergarten unable to read, now not only reads at a high school level, but can do things like multiply fractions, recite and locate all fifty states and capitals, and give an impressive oral presentation on gender inequality. There is so much to be proud of and to celebrate as she says goodbye to her K-5.
Fifth grade promotion heralds a brand new phase in kids’ lives – middle school — and all the independence and change that goes along with it. Definitely a big deal! The jump from fifth grade to middle school is going to be a big one, with a big school, big kids, big expectations, and big responsibilities. My daughter is perched on the edge of a cliff, ready to dive into a vast ocean of new experiences and possibilities. It’s exciting but also scary; a departure from the homey and comfortable environment she has been in for the past six years and a bittersweet — for me, anyway — transition from childhood to adolescence.
For San Francisco public school parents, the end of the K-5 years means less hands-on involvement at school. For better or worse, the fairly heavy parent involvement of the K-5 years will diminish significantly in the years to come. For six years, I have volunteered in my daughter’s classroom, provided snacks, attended daily morning circle, chaperoned field trips, and run down to school with forgotten homework and musical instruments from time to time. The school now feels like a second home not only for my daughter but for me as well! Middle school, I understand from experienced parents, will be more of a parent-free zone. My daughter will need to take on more and more responsibility for herself, so that she eventually can grow into a responsible adult.
Fifth grade promotion is a time to celebrate like any major milestone! Our kids grow up fast, so why not make a big deal out of all the major milestones and turning points in their lives, fifth grade promotion included? Even preschool graduation, though I’ve always thought the mini-mortar boards and diplomas were a little silly, is without a doubt a celebration-worthy event. These are times to reflect on and be proud of our kids’ accomplishments and to look with excitement to the next phase of development. A time to laugh, to cry, and to celebrate. And all of this, I may add, is well worth a new party dress and some cake and juice!