Dear Almost-Sixth-Grade Son,
It’s been many years since I was a fifth grade teacher leading the ceremonial “continuation” for my students as they took their last steps across an elementary school stage. It was before your time, but it won’t surprise you to know that I was an emotional mess, sobbing as I tried to say a few words about the pride I had in my students.
Now I see your excitement as you anxiously await today’s event, where you will not only take your final bow in elementary school, but you will be the one helping to lead the event. As you “continue” into middle school, I want to take a minute to share with you all the things that I wish for you to take with you into this next chapter.
Your gut. The insightful way that you walk through the world will always serve you well. Listen to your gut when you make decisions. You have an instinct to consider what’s best for everyone, not just yourself.
Your strength. This year has not been an easy one. The strength you have shown is beyond what I could have imagined. Carry this with you, as middle school will bring its own set of challenges and, at times, disappointment.
Your patience. You have shown a patience with those closest to you that impresses me beyond words. I’ve watched you grow this year in understanding who you are and how you interact with and support others. We all lose our patience sometimes. It’s how we recover it that shows our strength.
Your words. The heartfelt pieces you have written this year have introduced us to your voice. Hold tight to this. The ability to engage people through communication is truly a gift. You are entering a time when you will be able to develop this special talent. Use your voice and your writing to share yourself, to be an ally, and to tell the stories of others.
Your curiosity. I’m sure I have not answered all of the questions you’ve asked over the last several years, but that never stops you from asking. Always keep asking.
Your sense of justice. The awareness you have of social justice issues is remarkable. You have developed a lens that helps you call out sexism, racism, and classism. You understand what’s fair and equitable and you are willing to stand up for it. Use your privilege to be an ally.
Your joy. The funny thing about joy is that sometimes you have to look for it. It might take some effort at times, but look around you and find the things that make you smile and that bring you laughter. It’s easy to get more serious as you get older. Don’t lose that part of you that can’t contain your laughter when you play a prank, or that jumps up and down when the heroes are battling for good in a movie, even though you have seen it a dozen times.
Your family connection. Middle school can be a time when your attention is diverted to other interests, but don’t forget the importance of spending time with your family. Whether it’s watching news programs with grandma or family dinners with all the cousins, we are your foundation. Help us keep you strong.
Yourself. As I straightened your bicycle tie and pulled your hair into a ponytail this morning, I was reminded that you walk through this world with a style all your own and I hope you never lose that. You have a gift for putting others first, but be careful to balance that with meeting your own needs. Know who you are and continue to be comfortable in your own skin. Honor the differences in yourself and in others.
I am once again preparing to watch a fifth grade continuation, beaming with pride, and I plan to yet again be an emotional mess. There is no doubt in my mind that you will do good in this world. As you move on to middle school, you will make friends that will last a lifetime. You will have many ups and downs. Let yourself and your family be your compass as you navigate this new school and new world and don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. We are indescribably proud of you and we can’t wait to see what’s to come.