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As another school year comes to a close, it is often a time to reflect on the students who fill our hallways each year. The end of the year at our school means celebrations for those moving up to the next level and those moving on to high school. It is bittersweet to see those you’ve watched for many years get ready to leave the nest. Graduation season brings ceremonies, speeches and, of course, celebration. (Watch this year’s Wilmington Montessori School eighth-grade graduation ceremony.)

Each year, our school has an alumni speaker as part of the graduation ceremony. Former students come back to share their journey since middle school. It is always fascinating. In preparation, we review what was said about the speaker when she/he was a student with us. We reflect on the contributions they have made to our school and others they have attended. We eagerly await their words of wisdom, knowing they will share not only what their life is like now, but how our school played a part in their future experiences. It is not only interesting but often surprising. Students we thought were quiet and perhaps reluctant to share their ideas with others demonstrate the ability to step up and lead a project, visit a far away country or invent something that will serve those in need. Students who maybe were a bit reluctant to take the stage and speak to a group, come back and speak to an audience easily and comfortably. They continue to grow and change, though always remain true to themselves.

Schools have the responsibility to not only teach academic subjects, but to help children learn about themselves – their strengths, challenges and uniqueness. Schools are places where children can try on a variety of “hats,” learning which fit best. Students can be readers, writers, mathematicians, scientists, dreamers, artists, singers, athletes, caretakers, gardeners, friends and so much more. In the right environment, children can learn about themselves and take that strong sense of self with them as they move through life. The right school environment nurtures a sense of self, provides opportunities to grow, and sends students off confidently to their next phase of learning. The right school environment allows children the opportunity to know themselves well and continue to build on that throughout their lives. As this year’s graduates move on to the next phase of their lives, may they find the places that will continue to challenge them while allowing them to be true to themselves.