Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 25, 2007

Building character from A to Z

Youngest daughter Katie and her classmates are now officially launched from Riley County Grade School to the district's high school after eighth grade promotion exercises this week After 16 years of having daughters in the elementary building, it will be strange not to have them there when the school year begins in August.

It doesn't seem that long ago that these eighth graders were "graduating" from kindergarten, singing in breathy little voices and reciting the months of the year and their ABCs.

But now they're moving from crayons, recess and ABCs to harder classes and more responsibilities.

In fact, the eighth graders did turn in final ABC projects - character portfolios from A to Z. The assignment was to write about themselves using every letter of the alphabet. Some letters were already pre-assigned: A - a word or picture collage of their Activities and hobbies, C - a reflective essay on Citizenship, F - a letter written to their Future selves, H - a description of Home and family, Q - a reflective essay on their Qualities and traits, S - a description of their Social life and friends.

But other letters were left unassigned so students could exercise their creativity. Among some of Katie's choices were:

B - Big sister Mariya
D - Dad and Mom
G - Grandparents
J - Jedis, Elves and Aliens, Oh My, which included photos and descriptions of the Halloween costumes Katie and Mariya wore through the years
O - Our pets, including cats Chadwick, Cookie and Oreo and goldfish Dandelion
N - Nadja and Cecy, our exchange students, one from Germany, the other from Bolivia
R - Relatively speaking, which included extended family members
V - Volcano, violin and other science fair projects

I enjoyed watching Katie's progress on her project. It didn't take her long to choose what she wanted for each letter, but the poems, reflective essays and personal narratives required time and thought. Selecting photos was difficult too - not because she couldn't find what she wanted, but because my propensity for taking photos of every little thing meant that she had to go through about 20 albums to select just the right pictures for each letter of the alphabet.

The A to Z character portfolios were an excellent way for the eighth graders to see who and where they are at this moment, a bit about where they have been, and a glimpse of where they expect themselves to be in the future.

Katie and her classmates will share many experiences as they move into high school and beyond. Year by year, their characters will be built by these experiences. And they will be guided along the way by their families, friends, teachers, school staff members and a caring community.

Katie was pleased that she finished her booklet early. The day after turning her project in, Art drove her to school. Out of the blue, Katie announced that she was ready to move on and was excited about high school. Then she added that some of her friends were not quite so eager.

And I guess those feelings mirror those of us parents. I know I enjoy watching the kids succeed in new challenges, but I also hope that they don't move on too fast.

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