By Sabrina Bong
It is hard to believe that next week, my 8th grade students will graduate from middle school.
At the school where I work, we loop with our kids, which essentially means that we counsel the same kids for three years. The counselor that starts with the incoming 6th grade class stays with those students until they graduate from 8th grade. For me, this is especially meaningful: not only have I been with these students for the past three years, I really felt like I got to experience an amazing journey with them. We both started middle school at the same time: me as a nervous, inexperienced school counselor, and they as nervous, inexperienced middle school students. Together, we learned a lot of lessons and grew in immeasurable ways (both physically and mentally; the majority of my students are now taller than I am…)
I was recently asked to think about what I want to say during the graduation ceremony, and to be honest, I’m a little unsure of what to write. It’s not because I’m struggling through writer’s block; it’s because I have so much I want to say to these kids.
My kids. For the past three years, they have been “mine.” I remember that one of the other counselors in my building offered to “take” a team of them under his wing, since I had such a huge class size. It was a great plan, but it never panned out. All the 8th grade students came to me. And I was fine with that.
If I could have an individual conference with all 360+ students, I would. I can think of so many things I would want to tell each one of them. How proud I am that they accomplished their goals, and overcame adversity. How it was such a pleasure to watch them mature into young men and women. How much they made me laugh over their questions, and how much I enjoyed getting to know all of their names. How that, no matter where they go in life, I will always remember and think of them. I want them to know that there will always be someone in this world who cares about them and loves them for who they are. I want them to walk away from middle school with confidence, knowing that they can take on any challenges and succeed in whatever they set their minds to.
I was thinking about what advice I wanted to give my students, but as we get closer to graduation, my own words seem to fail me. Instead, I’ve been thinking about different songs that I enjoy. Here is some of the advice I want to share with my amazing, wonderful, talented 8th grade students (as told through song lyrics):
Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you/When you get where you’re goin’ turn back around/And help the next one in line/always stay humble and kind – Tim McGraw (“Humble and Kind”)
Living might mean taking chances/but they’re worth taking. – LeeAnn Womack (“I Hope You Dance”)
And I’ll end by saying have no fear/these are nowhere near the best years of your life – Brad Paisley (“Letter to Me”)
When your hourglass runs out of sand/you can’t flip it over and start again./Take every breath God gives you for what it’s worth – Kenny Chesney (“Don’t Blink”)
Every time you get up/and get back in the race/one more small piece of you/starts to fall into place – Rascal Flatts (“Stand”)
Congratulations to the 8th grade class of 2016!