Each year at the International School of Prague, we hold a “Middle School Leavers Ceremony” to recognize this important point in the lives of students moving from middle school to high school. My message to students this year was for them to hold on to the joy of learning for life.
For the past one, two or three years, each of you have literally been in the middle. Too old for elementary school and too young for high school. Neither here nor there, you might say. In fact, middle school has been a crucial and formative time in your lives and we’re here to celebrate all that you have learned and achieved so far.
Middle school is a rite of passage. It is a time of change and development, mentally, physically and emotionally. It is a time when students begin to see beyond themselves and start to form ideas about who they want to become. During your time in middle school we hope you have had the opportunity to learn more about yourself as a person and as a learner. Of course, this journey of self exploration and discovery never ends.
My message to all of our grade 8 students is that life as you have known it does not suddenly end when moving to HS. Yes, it’s an important next step in your lives and it’s a recognition that you are ready to take on new challenges and become more independent.
I know that many of you are nervous about what high school will be like. You’ve heard that it’s a lot of work, that it’s “really hard” or that it won’t be much fun. I’m hear to tell you that while there will be new challenges, you don’t have to lose the wonder and joy of learning. Learning, by its nature is a joyful process. I want to encourage you to hold on to that wonder, and joy, and fun in learning new things, and learning about yourself. This is how I hope you approach the next important phase in your life.
I also want to encourage you to be a learner all the time, not only in school, but perhaps more importantly outside of school. There’s a famous quote often attributed to Mark Twain, which goes like this, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” While some may find this to be a criticism of how school can limit learning, I take it to mean that school is in fact a starting point, not an end point for learning. As the great progressive educator John Dewey said: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
In this day and age, the best schools, like ISP, are there to guide you through your development and self exploration, to open up new vistas; to help you find your strengths and to learn how to learn throughout your lives.
So as you go off to your summer vacations, have fun, don’t worry about next year, but do keep learning. And return to ISP ready to embrace the next exciting chapter in your lives and continue to find the joy in learning.
Once again, congratulations to the grade 8 class of 2015!