It’s easy to get caught up in the bustle of the start of the school year, planning, preparing, and making sure that when students arrive on the first day of classes everything is ready to go. It was in that busy state of mind that I found myself attending our annual parent foundation planning retreat on Saturday, and it was in a moment of zen that I was reminded to pause and, like a good teacher planning a lesson, start with the end in mind.
Our foundation president had invited former San Dieguito parent, author, and speaker Robert MacPhee in to do some work with the board. As he ended his portion of the morning he invited us to a guided meditation that took as its focus our graduation ceremony.
I realized, as I listened to Robert take us through the relaxation and visualization process, that as the principal the graduation I pictured looked a little different from everyone else.
At San Dieguito we do graduation in a way unlike I’ve seen before. Students sit in four quadrants of chairs on the field, standard enough in itself, but rather than simply read names and have them tromp across a stage, students each write twenty-five words that are read as they walk to the center of the field to receive their diploma. We don’t have a stage; it’s just me and a basket, and it’s in the unpredictability and realness of the simple act of getting that roll of paper that the magic happens.
Eyes closed, remembering June’s commencement, I realized just how special the experience was, and how much I wished every parent could see graduation through my eyes.
The perspective I’m blessed to have is seeing each student walk from her place in line across the ten yards or so up to the middle of the field. Without steps to mount or a row of hands to shake along the way, this short walk takes on an immediacy and otherworldliness.
Time slows down, and as their principal, I feel a paternal pride. These are young adults on the doorstep of the great unknown.
Once they’ve shaken my hand and gotten their diploma they turn to the crowd and begin celebrating, but on those steps between their seat and center field, their last seconds of high school, their expressions are overwhelmingly filled with something like hope sweetened by uncertainty, not quite joy, not quite anxiety, but an emotional weightlessness that is difficult to describe.
Taking time to picture this moment that will end our school year helped me put into perspective the privilege and responsibility we have to these students, and the value of the work being done to prepare for the year ahead.
That short meditation brought me out of the busy moment and helped to renew my focus on the “why” of what we do. We have months to go and adventures innumerable before we get to that graduation ceremony, but every day we have opportunities to make our students’ school experience magical.