I have had the honor of observing our current 5th grade students become the individuals they are today since 3rd grade. This is one of the many perks of being a principal: having a schoolwide view of our kids as they progress through the years.
As a former 5th and 6th grade teacher myself, I remember year-end events like graduation. They were bittersweet. On the one hand, my students seemed excited about all the possibilities that middle school seemed to offer. At the same time, there was a sense of worry of leaving a community they had been a member of for the last six or seven years.
This is the challenge of change: What do you have to leave behind in order to move forward?
Change is something that we become more and more familiar with on the journey toward independence. Outward change is not up for discussion; it happens regardless. How we experience change is the variable. We can let it happen to us, or we can create our own agenda for the future.
Change is a constant, especially now in our networked and globalized world. Jobs that didn’t exist when I was in school are now common. For example, my younger cousin was a web stylist. I would describe this job to you, but I am still not sure what exactly she did. (I know it had something to do with clothes and the Internet.) So we need to become “change experts” and learn how to learn. We have to understand ourselves, our strengths, interests, and gaps, and set out a course for growth and renewal. Who knows what new careers will be available when our former 5th graders graduate from high school and/or college.
That leads into a larger point: personal change can only happen from within. Expecting others to change because their ideas or behaviors are not aligned with our beliefs is a recipe for failure. The best we can do is to model for others what we want to see in the world and hope that others will follow our lead. At the same time, we should develop the capacity of self-awareness, to understand that we may also be carrying old habits into new environments, and that the situation is not compatible.
The process of change does not involve becoming someone new. To me, it means becoming who you were meant to be. Speaking for myself, I never thought I would become a principal. It was my previous experiences and interests that led me to my current role. Yet I did not leave behind my principles and values, but rather revisited them and then carried them forward, renewed, in my life.
(If you are unsure about your future, what are your interests, passions, and questions? Where and how do you enjoy spending your free time? Think about it for a moment. Likely, these are the seeds that may eventually grow to becoming your true purpose in life.)
Our hope is that Mineral Point Elementary School has provided the best environment for students to become more self-renewing, self-aware and self-confident individuals in order to achieve one’s dreams. Becoming who we were meant to be is not a given; it takes work and dedication and the willingness to persevere through challenges. The upside is these are our goals and only ours. We get to own the outcomes.
I am also humble enough to know that school is but one part of a person’s life. We are aware of the incredible influence of one’s family, peers and the organizations with which we are involved. The teachers, staff and I are honored to be a part of our students’ lives and that we could partner with Mineral Point families in supporting them.
One last thing: students, please come back and visit. Regardless of you who will become, you will always be a part of this community. Some things never change.
PRINCIPAL, ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
This is Matt’s nineteenth year in public education. He started as a 5th and 6th grade teacher in a country school outside of Wisconsin Rapids, WI. After seven years of teaching, Matt served as an assistant principal, athletic director, and building principal all in Wisconsin Rapids. As an elementary principal with the Mineral Point Unified School District, he enjoys working with students, staff, and families in a collective pursuit of lifelong learning.