End of an era…?

Today our 6th graders promoted to 6th grade. I was asked to give a speech, along with the other 6th grade teachers. I thought I’d share it here.

6th grade. The end of an era. What do I say to you all? 

You know, whenever I meet someone new, we do the usual “get to know you” questions. One of them is always, “what do you do?” When I tell them I’m a teacher ,they always continue with, “Oh,that’s awesome! What grade do you teach?” When I tell them 6th grade, they always say something like, “wow…I bet that’s hard.”, or “Oh man, how do you deal with all those hormones?”

I have to laugh because I used to say those same things. I taught 5th grade for a long time. Every year, without fail, I would have parents and students begging me to move up to 6th grade with them and every year I would say the same things. “I don’t like 6th graders.” 

Then, one year, I had an amazing Administrator and an amazing class and together they convinced me to try 6th grade. I have to say, that was one of the best decisions of my career. I learned that I absolutely love 6th graders! But, you may ask, what about those hormones? Well, they are definitely there! But what people don’t realize is that it is so much more than that. 

In 6th grade we learn a lot about ratios, and early civilizations, the human body, and how to write amazing essays, but we also learn about who we are.

We start the year with a story about a boy who has amnesia and has to decide who he is. Who does he want to be? Can he reinvent himself? We learn about a girl who chooses to be herself no matter what everyone else says. We learn about the dangers of thinking we are too good and too important to help others and what happens when we do that. We learn about the importance of free will and being able to make choices for ourselves. We also learn about consequences and how to deal with those. 

6th grade is where it’s at. 6th grade is the rudder we hook to the back of our boats as we sail forth into the rest of our school years. 

As a teacher, one thing I really try to stress is the importance of being true to who you are. I try to meet my students where they are and help them along the path of learning. Sometimes they come at a run, sometimes I almost drag them, kicking and screaming. My goal is just to help them learn something important.

As I was thinking about what I should say today, I felt like I really needed some input from my students. I asked them to share something they learned this year at school that they thought was really important. Here are some of their responses. You might be able to guess who they are from their responses, but my favorite part is how diverse their responses are.

Some answers were very literal and about school and the topics we covered, which is great. It means they were listening. 

“I learned about nets and how they can help if I go into manufacturing.”

“I learned about computers and how to find areas.”

“I learned about multiplying fractions and that will help me when I do baking and want to make more.”

“I learned that fractions can help me share my pizza fairly.”

“I learned that some things are very expensive but that if I really did inherit a million dollars it would be awesome.”

“I learned that when I get behind, I can work hard and catch up and make things right.”

“I learned that reading is amazing! All you need is a good book that keeps you on edge. As long as the book keeps you interested and you fall in love with it, it is a good book.”

I love these answers. They help me feel like I actually taught something well.

Then, there were these answers that went a little deeper.

“I learned how to be a better friend and how to not be mean. I learned that I can make lasting friendships. I learned what a good friend really is like and how to make one and be one.” 

“I learned that being nice to other people is the most important thing. If you are not nice no one will want to be your friend.”

“I learned that I can be confident and that will help me be more successful.”

“I learned that if I am more respectful, I can stay out of trouble.”

“I learned that you have to think before doing. If you don’t think before you do something than you you’ll end up doing something stupid.”

And then the ones that really got to me.

“I learned that people can change over time. Overall, people can change, and I learned this in many ways throughout this year. Even at the beginning of the year when we read Restart, Chase changes the way he was after his coma. Outside of school, and in school, our friend group has gone through many things as well. A lot of stuff has happened, and even though change might not seem important, it is.”

“Something I learned that will be useful to me later in life is to appreciate the time you have with your family/friends while you have it. Life is short and it can go by really quickly. So spending time with your loved ones is important because you don’t know what is going to happen the next day.”

“This year I learned that not everybody is the same and not everybody will get along with everybody. People have differences and similarities. Not everybody is going to get along and be the same. People aren’t always going to like you and there are always going to be people that don’t. I learned that you can’t judge people because I don’t want to be judged. AKA the golden rule. “

“I learned that who you become friends with will determine how your year goes. I personally made friends who make me feel better about myself and make me laugh. But if you make friends that make you feel bad about yourself you might go through a tough year.”

“Something I learned in 6th grade that I will never forget is to put yourself out there.Even if it’s scary or might end up badly.”

“Something I learned this year that I think will help me later in life is something I learned from my friends, that your whole life, people will think different things about you and you can’t change that. However in announcements, they said a quote from Dr. Seuss, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” I learned from this, and the help of my friends, that I shouldn’t let others get me down for being who I am. I should listen to myself. I’m sure this will stay with me later in life because it will help me to realize that I am amazing, just how I am.”

“The one thing I will never forget from this year in 6th grade are the teachers. Each teacher has taught me something very important that will stick with me for the rest of my days. Ms. Carlson has been so kind and funny all year long. I’m so glad that she was my 6th grade teacher. Ms. F has taught me, not just things about the human body, but how to be honest and kind to everyone. Ms. Adams and Ms. S have helped me better understand math. Now, on to Larry, ( Mr. W ) he has not only been my reading and writing teacher on Friday’s, he has been my friend.”

6th grade. What a year. What a bunch of wonderful humans I got to spend every day with. I hope you know that I truly do love you. There isn’t a single person in my class that I don’t love.In fact, I love our entire 6th grade. I hope you all know that and that you remember that no matter what, you have a cheerleader back in 6th grade that is on your side, rooting for you, cheering you on, and believing in you. 

Good luck in 7th grade!

Photo credit: tercesa.com

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