At this time of the year, there is a surge in the debate of children “Graduating” from Pre-School/Kindergarten/whatever it is that you call the year before starting school.
In our centre – we call it the Possum Group. This group of children – these capable little humans – whose days with us are right now very numbered. We feel like it’s a sad time. And in many ways it is. These little people have often staked claim on a piece of our hearts. Four and five years old, and some of them we have known their entire lives. It literally brings tears to my eyes, to think about them leaving us.
But this week – we got together with them, and their families……. and we celebrated them, and their time with us. We are still getting good at this. So don’t get me wrong – I think there is still a long way we can go to making it better. But every year, we do a bit more reflecting, and then the next year, we become a bit more open, and things change. One thing that never changes though – is that celebrations are important. This is a big time in children’s lives, and it is special to come together to not only recognise this change – but to come together to create joyful memories.
“…our image of the child is rich in potential, strong, powerful, competent, and most of all, connected to adults and other children.” ~Loris Malaguzzi
I wonder if there will come a time, when this celebration is completely in the hands of the children – and to be honest, it’s what I strive for. We still seem to take it on in our adult capacity quite a bit. We’re still learning. That’s what I like about us.
But this year, for the first time – the planning process DID start with the children, and asking them what they wanted. I think we put words into their heads, because they wanted to call it their “Graduation” when we discussed that. I don’t think a child would necessarily come up with that word to describe this on their own. But “Graduation” it was. For now. We used our Floorbooks, and we consulted WITH children. Asking them what this celebration would look like, how it would happen.
They got very adamant about a cake. They really wanted a cake. Specifically – a chocolate cake with pink icing. Because I think that children and celebrations and cake all go hand in hand. Don’t they? And the decorations? Well – they wanted very specific lollies, sprinkles, and they wanted to write on it themselves. So, that’s what happened of course. And as for the way it turned out – I’ve never seen a better “Graduation” cake in all my years. It touched my soul. It was their work of art – completed together, and might I add, very proudly displayed! They wanted balloons, streamers and a big sign. They wanted to have a photo show, and they chose their own music – “Geronimo” and “We Will Rock You”. They even went through probably thousands of photos, to choose the ones they wanted to depict their year.
We had our input also. We did have a time of seating everyone. To bring these little people forward one by one, and give them the chance to tell everyone what they’ve loved about their time with us. We presented them all with a special keepsake card with photo and poem, as well as a little native tree – which we offer them to plant in memory of their time with us. This is a tradition we started a few years ago – and it is our part of input into the celebration. Because I believe we deserve a bit too.
We had invited our reading volunteers along, and the children thanked them with a box of chocolates and a bunch of flowers. As for Keith, who drives the bus out to Mayfield (bush kindy) for them – well, his time honoured gift was chocolates and a water gun.
Short speeches by the teachers and myself, and the viewing of the slideshow, followed by the cutting, and of course eating of the cake. The children able to do what children do best – and get their play on – whilst the adults had the chance to reflect with one another, and spend time together.
The place was filled with parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents and close friends. The circle of security was tight. All the people there, who really mattered. Even a set of grandparents all the way from Adelaide for the occasion. We do pride ourselves on those extended relationships. They are special to us.
What will next year bring? I believe it might be even more relaxed again. I believe that the children’s voice will speak even clearer and louder. Because we are getting so much better at letting go, trusting children, and remembering that after all – this journey is all about them. It’s about the memories that they can create and hold. And not for a minute, do we want to control what is important to them.
“Sometimes, you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.”