The following is a sketch of the words I'll deliver this morning at the Barnum School's 8th Grade Moving Up ceremony in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Throughout the last semester, 22 Fairfield University students and I participated in a service-learning course on Philosophies in Education. While my students read major philosophies in education, the young people at Barnum School gave them hands-on experiences of what they face as students in the 21st century.
At one point in the semester, I had my students do a visual reflection where they had to present their philosophy for teaching in a puzzle-shape I gave them. Their puzzle pieces, however, came together to create a piece of art I'm presenting to the school today. #BEBARNUM. It is a community-art piece with a poem I wrote for the school.
It is a pleasure to have opportunity to welcome you to the 8th grade Moving Up ceremony at Barnum School and to celebrate the young people here who are part of the Barnum School family. My name is Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall and I am an assistant professor at Fairfield University and the Director of the Connecticut Writing Project. This semester, the Barnum School opened their classrooms for my students and many worked with 8th graders who are “Moving Up” from here today. Together, my students and Barnum youth discussed educational philosophies, the power of learning and thinking, and the importance of education. Students from Barnum were the heroes and in just a few short weeks, they changed the lives and perspectives of my university students.
President of the United States, Barak Obama, teased his daughter’s school when he was asked to speak at a “Kindergarten” graduation. He told them, “I’m not going to share wisdom until the kids graduates high school – better yet, when they finish college.” I agree with our President that the real standing ovations and finger snaps are more deserved at the larger crossroads in life, but even so, there’s much to be applauded today, during the 8th grade Moving Up ceremony.
You’re moving up, Class of 2020…and four years from now I welcome you to ask our soon-to-depart President to come speak at your high school graduation. For now, I want you to stand up, however, because you’re stuck with me (make the kids stand up).
I like finger snaps, the poetic applause given during an open Mic and I welcome you to join me for a few shout outs/finger snaps that I want you to give. Please start by giving yourself two finger snaps.
(do it). You've made it to this crossroads and should be proud.
I want you to now turn to your teachers, the administration, and the staff – and give them two finger snaps. They make your education possible and there are not enough fingersnaps in the world for all the work that they do. They don't expect red carpets or ticker-tape parades, but they do appreciate when students recognize the hard work they put in for supporting you.
I also want you to offer finger snaps to your family and supporters. They love you. They support you. They want the best for you, and they care about you. In the long haul of your life, these are the people - the individuals - that matter most. You owe much to them. In fact, you owe them big time.
Finally, I want you to give two finger snaps to each other…for your friends. Do it. Do it now. I didn’t know when I was an 8th grader, that a good friend is someone who encourages you to be your best: to achieve, to excel, to live with integrity, and to be a good person. When one is in middle school (sometimes called mental school) it is easy to be hoodwinked by so-called friends who actually weigh you down. You don’t know this now, but you will learn this one day. Good friends, I mean really good friends, are hard to find. I hope that the fingers you snapped just now were for those friends who have made you a better human being, rather than those who have pulled you down from reaching your greatest potential. Anyone who does not support you in achieving a better life is not necessarily a real friend. I want you to think about that.
Congratulations, Kids. I am giving your school a gift from the 22 Fairfield University Students who visited this year. Each of them wrote you a note of encouragement and collaborated on a piece of art they hope will hang in your school (along with a copy of the poem, “#Be Barnum” that I wrote with you in a workshop this year). My students offer advice like,
· #Be Yourself
· #Be Bold
· #Be Flexible
· #Find Your Motivation
I thank you for inviting me to your ceremony and wish you the best as you pursue an additional education in high school. I challenge you to be lifelong learners, to appreciate the beauty of the world, and to follow the wisdom of Martin Luther King who advised us to always find the time to do what is right.
And close with two snaps for you. I want you to be successful. The world needs good people, not knuckleheads, know-it-alls, and bullies. Go do you, but do a you that adds joy to the world, and not harm. Take this moment to reflect on who you’ve been so far in life and make it a location for deciding on who you hope to be come. Choose to become somebody right now. Life's too short not to begin seizing the day right now.
My best to you and Ubuntu.