Milestones and Right Of Passage

Dallas Clayton Poem 

Driving home from doing an errand (beginning to see a pattern here, a place where my posts take form) I thought of the connections of milestones and right of passage (Wikipedia). I’ve written about traditions and milestones before, although in a different context. Not every milestone is a right of passage, but I wonder how they influence who we are as we find our way in this world!  And so I began to think about bar/bat mitzvahs, quinceaneras, first communions, graduations, marriage, births; the cycle of life. Many religious practices have important rituals that are bestowed on their members as an entry-way to becoming a part of that community. As members their commitment may vary, but how and why is their decision. These milestones can then become rights of passage, the road, so to speak, that leads to membership.

So I look at the first five years of life, the tremendous milestones from infancy to the school age child (kindergarten). For many children these trajectories follow a pattern and soon that sweet baby goes off to school, tearful, maybe, but ready. (Parents’ tears last longer.) Somewhere along the way certain school milestones do become a right of passage; the reader has the world opened to her/him and the writer let’s us know their thoughts.  (I only look at these two milestones, not diminishing math, science and other curriculum in any way.) These two milestones carry a heavy weight in our school culture and look like a right of passage, from heavy reliance on the teacher (their crutch) to growing independence in traversing school life. And then there are those children who need more time to become readers and writers often looking around, seeing peers chatter away, discussing the books they’ve read! They see the writers, with amazing ideas, quickly put pencil to paper, eagerly sit with their buddies, sharing their prose. For those students who are not there yet, how do we as teachers find ways to include them? That has to be in our “toolbox!” We build relationships, make connections, share some of our own travails and explore other outlets to help them find their voice. We find their strengths, better still we help them embrace their strength and together we work from there. I reflect about this (even as a substitute teacher) as I look at the students I may teach; not just the accelerated learners, but the students who need more scaffolding to get there. I have found in my many years in the classroom, that these are the students that have so much to teach us: from patience, to resilience, to compassion we get there together.

How do you see milestones shape the life of your students? Have you looked at these as rights of passage? What happens to the student who is not there yet?



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