Monday, June 19, 2006

fifth-grade faith

Tera had a "graduation" ceremony last Wednesday. She's only leaving fifth grade, so I'd really prefer that we had used the term "promotion" and saved the word "graduation" for the real event which will occur seven years from now. I don't like those sly little attempts to cutefy and grown-upize pint-size occasions. I wish everyone would stop trying to rush my child through childhood.

But enough of my soap box. I want to share what happened at the end of "graduation."

The five fifth-grade classes were standing at attention on risers in the center of the stage, listening to their principal give them the final send-off. In the audience, we parents and other family members were waiting for the period at the end of his last sentence. It had been a nice ceremony, but the room was overcrowded and over-ready to be finished.

"Before we go," Principal Coltum said, pulling a piece of paper out of his pants pocket, "I want to talk directly to a few of the students. I can't mention all 120 by name, but there are a few I want to address."

He then began calling on students. "Analiese? Where's Analiese?" When Tera's friend giggled and raised her hand, he announced to the room that he'd never met a girl who could so clearly speak her mind. "Brent? Where are you, Buddy?" Brent, we were told, was a student who always wanted to help. Jamey loved soccer. Ben, it seems, asked routinely to be excused from lunch to go to the bathroom. And ever since he first spoke to Sarah at the lunch table, the girl had never stopped talking.

Light-hearted comments, all. But then he called on my daughter. "Where's Tera Woodward?" I saw Tera's eyes widen instantly as she raised her hand.

"This might embarrass you, Tera, but it's a good thing." He then turned to the audience and began reciting the case number of a Washington state law. The number started with "RCW," but I didn't catch the rest of it. "According to that law," he said, "students are not required to leave their beliefs at home when they come to school. They have a right to bring their faith here. And I want you to know what this student did. Not only did Tera invite me and my family to her church, she also gave me a gift ... a brand new Gideon's Bible."

At that, I cried.

"She took a stand," he continued, before turning and addressing his final comments to Tera's classmates. "Students, don't ever be afraid to stand up for what you believe."

And with those words, fifth grade came to an end.

Later, my friend Cindy, who had been sitting on the opposite side of the room watching her daughter "graduate," told me that the parents in front of her had scoffed and shaken their heads at the Principal's comment to Tera. I wasn't surprised. I'm sure more than one set of parents were irritated by his speech ... but I didn't care. It didn't matter if it made the whole lot of them mad.

There was pride enough in me to cover the day.

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