When I graduated from kindergarten, I wore a sundress and a mortarboard made from blue paper. I had my first brush with fame when I delivered the line "We welcome you to kindergarten graduation."
Like many rites of passage, kindergarten graduation has come a long way since the late '80s. As I gazed around in amazement this morning at my 6-year-olds transformed into 16-year-olds through the magic of polished shoes, poufy dresses and copious amounts of hairspray, Miss B read my mind: "It's like a prom," she said, and then she corrected herself: "It's like a wedding and a prom."
The boys wore 3-piece suits made by Calvin Klein (!), complete with vests, ties, and slippery shoes. Their hair was slicked within an inch of its life ("My mom says my hair can't get messed up," one reported). The girls had their hair curled, or blown out, or otherwise styled, and at least 75% of them were dressed like Princess Diana (if Princess Diana were about to become a kindergarten graduate, that is).
181 school days ago, on the very first day of school, my kindergarteners were the first students I taught at this school. Armed only with a copy of Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten (and the all-important stickers, of course), I was scared to death. Now they are kindergarten graduates and I am very nearly a second-year teacher -- we've all come a long way.
I oohed and ahhed over how handsome and beautiful they all looked -- "Miss Brave, do you like my tie?" "My grandma bought me these shoes!" "My titi did my hair!" -- and then I patiently zipped up gown after gown, admonishing them not to touch their tassels ("Miss Brave, what's a tassel?") or fuss with their hats. When the boys began to complain that their ties were too tight and the girls began to complain that their bobby pins were sticking them, I introduced them to a painful truth: Fashion hurts.
But then again, so does growing up. And that's what this year has been all about.