Rites of passage

June 9, 2009, 6:56 PM ·

It's the end of the school year, time for appreciating the good things.

Today my husband and I took some time from our morning to watch one of the annual awards ceremonies at our children's school, this one for the second and third graders.

I've come to realize that these little rites of passage are a huge deal to small people. We sat in the front with all the parents, and when I looked back to where my son's class was sitting, I saw him craning his neck. When he saw us he smiled -- with something that looked like relief -- and waved.

My kids go to a large K-8 public school in Pasadena, McKinley School, and I would not dispute it if someone were to tell me that no two people in the entire school are of same race, except perhaps for siblings. And not even always those! Yes, that's a white person, a white person from New Zealand. Yes, she's an African-American, but the girl next to her is actually straight from Kenya. Kids are from India, Malaysia, of Japanese descent, Chinese, mixed. Hispanic, from all over the American continents. European.

Basically, these kids are extremely supportive of one another, a messy and close-knit bunch. They are huge flock in which no birds are alike. One of our parent friends likes to tell a McKinley story, about a class party at the ice rink. The tallest, biggest boy couldn't skate, but the others wouldn't let him just keep clinging to the sides. All the kids gathered around him, put his arms around their shoulders, and the entire group supported him as they all skated around the rink, slipping and sliding and laughing.

Today the teachers gave many awards: for improvement, achievement, a sense of humor, a good attitude, citizenship, even one for peacemaking. Our little guy got a reading achievement award, well done!

But my favorite, besides the one that went to my own, was for a boy who wasn't there. His teacher was giving him an award for his hard work in learning English, a language he did not speak at the beginning of the year. This was one of several awards given today for that particular achievement. Learning language always makes me think of learning music, and of Suzuki's beautiful idea that everyone has talent, if it can only be cultivated in the right environment.

The boy couldn't accept the award because he'd already returned to Korea.

"Since he's not here, I'm going to accept this on behalf of all the children in my class," she said, "because they worked so hard to teach him English!"

Humble teacher -- beautiful children. I clapped 'til my hands hurt!


June 10, 2009 at 04:08 AM ·

the K-8 school succeeds on so many different levels not the least being a sense of community and stability for nine years unless family relocation comes into play; but that's another topic altogether

June 10, 2009 at 05:12 AM ·

We really just lucked into the K-8, but I'm happy about it. Early adolescence is hard enough without the turmoil of a new school, and having middle school in the context of a K-8 seems to be working well for us. Of course, there are many ways to skin a cat, and if there is anything I've learned from teaching and being a parent, it's that different situations work well for different kids!

June 11, 2009 at 06:27 PM ·

 What a fabulous sounding school! I'm already dreading the thought of my son's leaving the K-5 local elementary school he's in (he'll be in 5th next year). The diversity sounds particularly impressive.

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