Maybe not so fierce after all

Today was the last day of school for us as we start in mid-August. Yesterday, we held the graduation ceremony for our 5th graders. To be honest, I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. For one thing, I noticed that, just like last year, the girls who displayed the most disrespect towards peers and teachers had parents who yelped the loudest when their kid was called to the podium to receive their diplomas. One of the Mean Girls had a custom-made skirt with Class of 2023 emblazoned on it – just like another of her predecessors last year. I also wondered about the idea of cheering on the kids who literally did no work all year and roamed their classrooms boisterously, ignoring their teachers during instructional time.

While I was in their classrooms, many of the 5th graders acted silly. The aforementioned Mean Girls spent a good chunk of their time dancing during class time, sometimes in ways that were far too provocative for ten-year-old girls. (I guess we can thank the ubiquity of TikTok for this.). Of course, not all kids acted this way all year but those that did seemed shameless in their behaviors all year long.

As part of graduation, each kid had to get up to the podium, shake their teacher’s hand, receive their diploma, and then pause in front of a banner bordered by balloons so that parents could take their picture. So many of these seemingly fearless kids suddenly became awkward on the stage. A few covered their faces while others ran off the stage without pausing for their photo op. The principal noted that this was the first time she had ever seen these kids be bashful. I was also struck by all of the awkwardness.

All year long, my feelings on the behaviors vacillated between amusement and annoyance, depending on my mood. As I watched these kids on stage, all itchy-looking from being in front of everyone, I realized that behind the swagger, they are just little kids and maybe some of this behavior is used to mask their feelings about their self image. I hope to continue to work on seeing what’s going on from the other point of view and deepen my compassion for these children.