Graduation Speech

This was originally posted nearly 8 years ago when my son was “graduating” preschool and moving to the big, bad elementary school. As I reread it, I felt compelled to reshare it as I fear much of it still rings true with me as a parent and as an educator.

Good afternoon friends, families, and graduates. Thank you so much for asking me to come and speak before you on this momentous of days in the lives of these five-year-olds. We come together today to recognize and honor our preschool graduates. Over the past two years they have come through these doors to play, paint, draw, build, dress-up, read, write, color, and learn. Through the power of play, these students have grown socially, emotionally and academically. Through the power of compassionate and love filled teaching, these students are now prepared for elementary school.

Students, as you move into the next phase of your academic lives I have some advice for you. First, forget everything you did here. Especially anything that was fun and playful. You will be entering into a world of testing and strict standards that will dictate your every move. Your play time will be replaced by test preparation and your coloring will be done with a number two pencil in small circles.

My second piece of advice is to hold on to your creativity as long as you can. While you were here in preschool you were creative in the most unfiltered and pure form. You learned new things out of curiosity and a natural love of learning. As you get older your classes will become more rigid, structured and scripted. Do whatever you can to be creative in your work and pursue your natural curiosity.

Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid failing. Yes, when you tried singing your ABC’s and messed up, your teacher gave you as much time as you needed to figure it out and get it right. Even though you failed initially, your teacher did help you learn from it. However, as you move forward, failure is seen as weakness and ultimately will determine your lot in life. Too many failed tasks and you will be labeled a failure with no chance of success in this so-called real world.

Now don’t get me wrong, elementary, junior high, and high school will have some great things as well. Those friends that you made in preschool will still be with you. Although as you move on in your schooling, those friends will now be competitors. Instead of playing together you will compete with each other for awards, spots on sports teams, and class ranking. If you are lucky you will come out on top.

My last piece of advice is for you to never lose your hope. If you are fortunate enough you will have a teacher willing to make learning as fun for you as it was here in preschool. This teacher will allow you to think outside the box and allow your natural creativity to flow. They will encourage you to be more than a number on a standardized test or a grade on a report card.

Teachers outside of the preschool world, if you are in the audience I ask you a favor. Look at these bright and enthusiastic faces. They have a love for learning and treasure every day at school. Do whatever is in your power to keep them this way as long as possible. Don’t squash it with test prep, awards competitions, and overly standardized learning.

In closing, my most heartfelt congrats to you and the work you have done in the past two years. Keep the memory of the past two years in your mind and never forget what is possible when you love learning and let your curiosity lead your way.