Graduates, we gather today to celebrate your years of hard work and dedication. It was a long road that got you here, to this moment, and no, you cannot hit one another with your hats.
Graduation means you’ve made it through preschool, and in just a couple months, you’ll be real kindergartners. You’ll face many challenges, perhaps some setbacks. You’ll need resilience and grit to succeed in elementary school, but you’ve all got what it takes.
Some of the biggest lessons you’ll learn in school will be in the cafeteria and on the playground, not in your classrooms. I’m not talking about things like don’t buy lunch on sloppy joe day, or that when it’s sunny outside the handles on the monkey bars get really hot, although those are obviously important things to know. What I mean is that you’ll learn a lot from other children, and if they’re lucky, they’ll learn from you too.
On the first day of school, find the kid who’s sitting by himself in the lunchroom. Look for the little girl who’s crying for her mom in the mornings. See the student who’s standing alone on the playground while the other kids play zombies vs. werewolves. Be their friend. Sit down next to them, tell them it’s going to be okay, then reach out your hand and ask them if they want to play with you. Tell your friends to do the same thing.
You’ll need to stand up for people. If you see someone being mean, stop them. Tell them we don’t treat each other that way because it’s way more fun when we can all play and be friends. The world needs people who stop others from being mean. You can be those people! Make that your job right now. You are the ones who make everyone be nice.
Always remember that the coolest kids are the ones who are different. How neat is it that no one looks alike, sounds alike, or even thinks alike? If another boy or girl is interested in something you think is a little weird, or maybe even kind of scary, be brave and ask them about it. Get excited with them. Make sure you always take the time to learn about new things and people with different lives than yours. It’s actually really fun to be friends with people who aren’t exactly like us.
You can be different too. You don’t have to wear the same clothes, eat the same foods, or enjoy the same movies, TV shows, or characters as everybody else. We all get to like our own stuff. Even better? We can all look however we want. Check it out: We’ve got a body and a life, and we can do so many fun things with them. We can be whatever we want!
Be a helper. The world needs helpers right now, and it doesn’t matter that you’re only 5 or 6. Children can help too. You guys matter, and you can make a difference. If someone falls and skins their knee, go over and make sure they’re okay. When a friend can’t carry his heavy backpack, go over and give a hand. Wipe down the board for your teacher. If another child is sad, ask her if she needs a hug, and share a toy or a book. Tell her you care about her. Doing stuff like that is a much bigger deal than making it to the third-grade reading group way ahead of schedule — trust me.
You don’t have to decide what you want to be when you grow up right now. Don’t worry about that. Grownups will ask you what you want to be all the time, but that’s because they can’t think of anything else to say to children. You shouldn’t be thinking about a job you might have in 16 years. Your work right now is to play. It’s to explore and build things and take things apart just so you can see exactly how they’re put together. Mess with things. Make up stories and act them out. Have adventures.
When you are a grownup, you might have to wear a uniform or a suit. You might have to cut your hair a certain way, or you might not be able to get away with wearing a tiara on an everyday basis. Wear silly costumes now. Play dress up. Put on wacky leggings with light-up shoes and a top covered in glitter. Top the whole thing off with a unicorn horn and a rainbow crown. It’s okay to dress as wild as you want. Have fun with that.
Guess what else you should have fun with? Creating. You don’t have to make a brown horse if you think it would be cooler in sparkle aqua. Make all kinds of things — real life things that we can hold and touch and turn upside down. Get out the glue, the stapler, the scissors (ask your parents first), and go to town. Build stuff.
You’re going to learn to read and to write. You’ll do math problems and learn about Colonial times. Some of you may take a little longer to get it than others, but that doesn’t matter. In just a few years, your brains will be filled with facts. You’ll learn all sorts of new skills. It’s going to happen, so think of school as an adventure you get to go on every day, and try not to be too hard on yourselves.
We grownups don’t expect you to be perfect. If you mess up, or make a mistake, or even get into a little trouble, understand that is how you’ll learn and keep learning. You know how if you make a big mess, if you work together you can always get it all cleaned up? Well, life is like that too. Messes can always be cleaned up. Most of the time you’ll get another turn. If you don’t get the part you wanted in the class play, be super happy for the student who did, and know that your time will come too. We all get disappointed, and we all get a chance to shine.
Good luck, graduating preschoolers! We are so very proud of each and every one of you.