Monday, June 9, 2014

Graduation Day, Class of 2014

Graduation Day is one of my favorite celebrations of the year. The graduation students played and sang fabulous music, Karl spoke wise and witty words, the Kindergarteners recited sweetly, and there was much rejoicing. It is also a day that pulls at my heart. Today we celebrated the moving up and moving on of Saul, Denali, Lily, Jonathan and Ryan. We also celebrated the moving up to middle school of fifteen young 4th graders - awesome and wonderful creatures - but with our eighth graders we also have to say goodbye.

Each year I write poems for the graduating classes; a joint poem for the fourth grade and an individual poem for each of the eighth grade graduates. It is part of our ritual to have each child stand with me on the platform and listen to their poem. It is poignant moment for me, to have that opportunity to write for them and about them, and let them know how much they mean to us, and also at that same moment to send them off to new adventures.

Class of 2014, please know that you are loved. Come back and visit often.

Here are the poems:

Eighth Grade

Ode to Saul
O Saul, whose brain is like a city
Where buildings reach into the sky,
And streets make complicated patterns
Losing countless passers-by…

O Saul, the city of your brain
Is home to thoughts and contemplations,
Who ride their bikes to work each day
Through the streets of expectation.

Saul, the city is beautiful.
The reason why it is beautiful
Is that your heart is beautiful.
Over the city, the sun of kindness shines.

Ryan throws down his gauntlet to the world.
“I challenge you, World!” he exclaims,
And the world accepts the challenge
But it knows it cannot manage
So it goes and packs its baggage
And runs away in shame.

Ryan climbs a mountain
Just because it’s there.
And the mountain throws ice storms at him,
And avalanches fall on him,
And sometimes lava pours on him,
But Ryan doesn’t care.

Ryan is the emperor
Of all that he surveys.
And he, like Alexander
(That Ancient Greek commander)
Seeks out new worlds to conquer
And earns eternal praise.

Denali is a lake of calm, calm water.
See how softly the reflections lie on the surface?
Not a ripple.
Not a wave.
Lake Denali smiles in the sunlight.

Take a small boat, and head across that water.
At some point you may feel, beneath the surface
Something ripple,
Someone wave,
Lake Denali is deep beneath the light.

There are all kinds of things that happen in that water;
Parties going on below the surface...
Laughter ripples,
Paintbrushes wave
With brilliant color that catches the light.

Denali is a lake of calm, calm water,
And under those reflections on the surface
Magic and mischief
Music and mayhem
Dance in the watery light.

Lily thinks
Lily thinks carefully
Lily thinks carefully and she acts.
Lily acts
Lily acts purposefully
Lily acts purposefully and she loves.
Lily loves
Lily loves with an open heart
Lily loves with an open heart and she laughs
Lily laughs
Lily laughs radiantly
Lily laughs radiantly and she sings
Lily sings
Lily sings wondrously
Lily sings wondrously and with life
Lily lives
Lily lives joyfully
Lily lives joyfully and with thought
Lily thinks carefully and she acts purposefully and she loves with an open heart and she laughs radiantly and she sings wondrously and she lives joyfully
Lily is in our hearts

Jonathan is an explorer,
And here’s how explorers play:
They find new paths no matter
How hard or rough the way.

Jonathan treks through the jungle,
Carving his own kind of track.
He pushes through vines and branches
and sometimes they push back.

Jonathan bounces up again,
And shakes off the leaves and dirt.
He smiles up into the sunlight
and shrugs away his hurt.

When there’s a monstrous fallen tree
That blocks the way ahead,
Jonathan jumps right over it
And bumps into the branch overhead.

Jonathan bounces back again,
And rubs his head with a smile.
He says, “I’ll find my own path,
And I’ll do it with personal style.”

Jonathan returns from the jungle,
With a fascinating map
Showing every place he tripped
And every place he bounced right up,
Because to get all the way through a jungle,
There are times when it makes you fumble,
And times when it makes you stumble,
For that is the way of a jungle,
And a true explorer jumps back up.

Jonathan is an explorer,
And as every explorer knows
The joy is in the adventure
And that’s how the spirit grows.

Fourth grade

The FourthGradeGrad Project (inspired by the Heidelberg Project)

In the town of Summers-Knoll
There is a lovely neighborhood
Called FourthGradeGraduate Avenue
With houses, gardens, woods.

There’s the Kit house. It opens on the woods, and all the trees reach in their branches until the whole house looks like a forest. Animals run in and out. The Kit house is connected to the Ariana house, which has a stream running through it, and a prairie. Butterflies dance abundantly.

The Clementine house is woven of bright yarns and fabrics, with a rooftop of folded paper and a garden that grows sequins and bright buttons. If you look in through the windows you will see that every room is painted like a different world.

The Oliver G house makes sounds. Different music comes out through every window, and as it comes out it turns into brightly colored words in crazy fonts that run all over the house. Nothing is the same for longer than a minute and a half. Every so often the front of the house folds down and reveals a stage, where brilliant comic plays are performed by Oliver G himself and his closest friends, to the delight of the neighborhood.

The Miriam house is also a performing house. The walls are made of moving dancers, and as they leap and pirouette the house shimmers and shifts and reforms, flowing and misty with gauze and silk. Miriam herself can be seen from time to time, poised en pointe on the balcony.

The Maddy house is a house of books. It is connected to the Becca house, also made of books, and between the two of them they have a maze that people can enter and read their way around until they are completely lost. People have been known to enter these houses and never come out again, living the rest of their lives inside the worlds of different books. Sometimes you meet a character coming out, who has accidentally stepped out of its book and is wandering around the maze too. I met Harry Potter himself, coming out of the Becca house. It was SO COOL. But he looked a little confused.

The Niko house is wound around with stories. The walls tell the stories, and the words grow into pictures on the outside. The house is surrounded by his friends, listening to the stories the walls tell and trying to avoid the zombies, who are always hanging around hoping to be part of the story.

There’s a whole block of houses covered in Magic cards. The Elliot house, the Andrés house and the Ben house are all thick with cards so you can’t see the walls or roof at all. The cards are constantly visiting or having contests of strength, with Pyromasters and Callers of Beasts and Legendary Creatures and Planeswalkers all playing tricks on each other. Sometimes the whole block bursts into flames for a second, or transforms into a dragon, and then Elliot or Ben or Andrés has to go and fix it so it doesn’t wreck the whole neighborhood.

The Owen house is a gigantic soccer ball. The door looks like the English flag, the Red Cross of St. George. If you ring the doorbell, it sounds like a huge crowd cheering, but if you open the door you will get bopped on the head by a soccer ball. Owen’s guests are famous soccer players from the history of the game, and they play all over the house all the time, so soccer balls are flying everywhere. Watch out.

The Oli S. house has been constructed out of Minecraft pieces. Oli goes on regular trips to other planets to gather construction materials. It’s an enormous house. It goes up and up, but also down and down into the earth, with endless new developments being made. If you actually want to talk to Oli you have to make an appointment. You can’t just drop by - his house goes on for miles and he may be a loooooong way away.

The Henry house is virtual. It is made of code. Henry reprograms it from time to time, whenever he wants a different look. Right now it is a mansion, but a couple of days ago I walked by and I’m sure it was a Winnebago. Henry programs gardens all around it, where he grows virtual vegetables which he cooks and eats for dinner. He shares them with a virtual groundhog who comes by and nibbles in the garden from time to time. (Note: Henry is not actually graduating from 4th grade - he is moving up into 4th grade. His contribution here is to feed Eva's horses, below.)

The Eva house is a stable. Horses come and go. The Eva house is full of hay and has a huge yard where the horses race each other and practice jumping over the fences out into the neighborhood. Sometimes they visit the Henry house, and help themselves to some good carrots or apples from the virtual garden, but they always complain that the food there isn’t very filling.

The Adri house is a mass of singing and acrobatics. It is a swirl of bright colors, and every few minutes it plays a fanfare. Ideas pop out through the windows and float away on the breeze like bubbles.

The neighborhood is beautiful,
Full of life and sound.
Thank you, Fourth Grade Graduates
We’ll be seeing you around!