Good to celebrate life’s milestones

The month of May is a canvas upon which various images are drawn. Here in Indiana we have the rich spectacle of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, of course, with all of its attendant events and festivities.

On Mother’s Day we celebrate our blessings while on Memorial Day we acknowledge our debts to others. For many it is the end of another school year and the start of another summer. And for some it is a transition, a graduation from something familiar to something new.

This week Becky and I will be attending our granddaughter Adelaide’s graduation from preschool to kindergarten as well our grandson Atticus’s graduation from elementary to middle school. Later in May our nephew Addison will graduate high school in Tennessee. Earlier in the month our niece Samantha received her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. It occurs to me these May events cover a comprehensive cross-section of the modern educational world.

I admit to being pre-modern when it comes to graduation ceremonies. The first time I experienced such ceremony was when I walked across the makeshift stage in our school gym to get my high school diploma. Maybe there was an event marking a transition from kindergarten to first grade, but I didn’t finish kindergarten, so I probably wouldn’t have known about it. When I went from Grade 6 elementary to Grade 7 junior high, it was like nothing was really that different. I was told what classes to take and where to show up for them.

When I was nearing Grade 9, my parents and I met with a counselor who suggested a course of classes for the next four years of secondary school. My high school was all planned out. Not once during any of these transitions from early grades to senior class did my schoolmates or I consider or expect a graduation ceremony.

Rather than a series of short sprints, I saw those 12 years of school as a marathon to run until completed. I suppose a ceremony or two might have been kind of fun even though my buddies and I probably would have used it as an excuse to goof around. Still, it would have been nice for our parents and relatives, I’m sure.

Now graduation ceremonies are a must. It is a good thing to highlight the successful completion of a course of study and at the same time reflect on what has been accomplished (although I am not sure how deeply Adelaide will be reflecting on her preschool career). Graduation ceremonies are good because they remind students that they accomplished something. They remind the graduates that their families and friends care about them. And they are nice for the the parents and relatives, too.

Plenty of graduation advice is out there. If I were to add to it, I would say: it’s a good idea to examine both sides, all sides of anything. I would say new things are good, but the old stuff is good, too. I would say in life you don’t always win, but winning and losing can both be good lessons. I would say you should never, ever give up hope.

Each one of our four graduating family members will be stepping into the unknown to some degree. Each will be carrying memories of people and experiences as he or she heads out on the coming journey. They have expectations to some degree or another of how the future will play out, and eventually they will be confronted with the success or disappointment of these expectations.

How they deal with either of these scenarios will be dependent on what they learned in their schools as well what they learned from their families, friends and the world outside the classroom. Good luck to them.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to