Joey Shapiro, 8th-Grade Teacher & Team Leader
Bernard Zell graduation represents a moment in our collective life to celebrate the maturation and development of a group of young people before they leave the confines of our community. We revel in the accomplishments of our graduates and celebrate all they have learned while students in our classrooms. What I love most about graduation is that it provides an opportunity for reflection for so many of us—educators gaze upon the near-adults on the stage and think back on ways we each contributed to molding them while in our care; parents marvel at how their progeny have grown up in the blink of an eye, well prepared for the academic and developmental stages ahead; and, perhaps most importantly, the graduates themselves, who can now think back on all their experiences in the building and how they have shaped their understand of the world and themselves.
Our aim in preparing students for graduation leans into the impulse to reflect. We strive to inculcate the concept of reflection in every class and at every grade level, but graduation invites soon-to-be alumni to do so more globally. At Bernard Zell, every child is asked to share with the community in their waning moments in a reflective way—though the prompts and entry points vary from year to year, eighth-grade students are invited to find a personal, important lesson they learned in their time in our vaunted halls and to find an experience that exemplifies it or demonstrates how they came to internalize it.
This year, graduating students not only shared a moment in their time at Bernard Zell and what they learned from it, but they also composed a letter to their parents around the values they have learned here that shaped them. We take pride in the reflective skills our students develop while in our classes; they were on display in spades at graduation.