Moving Up Day Speech by Melanie Ward

This speech was delivered by Melanie Ward, Principal of Mendon Center Elementary School on June 22, 2010 on its annual Moving Up Day Ceremony which occurs on the last day of school. As in any good speech, the speaker’s words have resonance not only for the graduates but for all audience members, and I asked Mrs. Ward for permission to share her words here, for parents to consider: How well do we, as adults, heed the advice of an elementary school principal to her graduating students?

I am pleased to be able to say a few remarks, and share some of my thinking with you on this, your last day at [our school]. As we prepare to move you up to the middle schools, it is natural to think a little bit about your experiences in elementary school. You have worked hard and accomplished much in your time here.

You have learned how to read and to write; you have become proficient at math, learned how to think like scientists, and have become acquainted with many of the world’s regions, customs, and history in your social studies lessons. You have created beautiful pieces of art, performed musically, and learned much about physical fitness and wellness. You found the Gingerbread Man and set butterflies free. You played games at the Math Carnival, punched tin, made bread on Pioneer Day, and came through Ellis Island as immigrants. You participated in International Day and Science Day, donated Halloween candy, collected soap and canned goods galore.

Along the way, you have made new friends, and have been taught by many wonderful teachers.

Most importantly, I think, you have learned what it means to be a responsible and respectful people – good citizens of your school and your community.

No matter what subjects your teachers taught you over the years, what they were most concerned about was helping each one of you to become the best person you could be.

Our job here is done – we’ve taught you all that we have the time and the days to teach you and – for the most part – you have learned our lessons well. Before we let you go, however, I hope you will allow me this one last opportunity to give you some advice to take with you to the middle school.

1) Work hard. Things won’t always come easily to you, and they shouldn’t. What is worth learning is worth working hard for. Don’t let frustration get the best of you – persevere, ask for help, keep trying. The payoff will be great.
2) Be humble. Yes, you are smart. You are talented. You are athletic. You are a lot of great things. But so are a lot of other people. Be humble about your accomplishments and be quick to compliment others’ on theirs. You will be respected and appreciated by others for this attitude.
3) Smile. That one seems silly perhaps, but it is important. Maintaining a positive attitude – or faking it when necessary – will go a long way towards helping you to make new friends and feeling good about yourself. You’ll be amazed at how much better the world looks – and how the world looks at you – when you have a smile on your face.
4) Be courteous and respectful. Towards adults, towards your peers, towards yourself. Good manners and a respectful attitude will take you far in this world.
5. Get involved. Find extracurricular activities that you are interested in and get involved. Don’t worry if you are the only one of your group of friends interested in joining a particular club or activity. If that activity truly interests you, go for it. You are likely to meet new friends who share a common interest with you – and have some fun along the way.
6. Follow the “golden rule” – do unto others what you would have them do unto you. There is no more important rule to live your life by. It is also a very general rule, so here are some more specifics to help you as you continue your journey:

If you open it, close it.
If you turn it on, turn it off.
If you unlock it, lock it up.
If you break it, admit it.
If you can’t fix it, call someone who can.
If you borrow it, return it.
If you value it, take care of it.
If you make a mess, clean it up.
If you move it, put it back.
If it belongs to someone else, get permission to use it.
If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone.
If it’s none of your business, stay out of it.
If what you have to say will brighten someone’s day, say it!
If what you have to say will hurt somebody, don’t say it!
If something isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.
If you think you know it all, look around and see how little you really know.

Fifth graders, you leave here having learned a lot, but you have much more to learn in the years ahead. Be willing to keep on learning – from your teachers, coaches, parents and friends. Maintain a positive attitude, a helpful disposition, a willingness to try new experiences. Keep reading, be helpful, clean your rooms, practice your instruments, be good to each other, and keep smiling.

What advice would you give to kids entering middle schools/Jr. High schools in the fall?

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9 responses to “Moving Up Day Speech by Melanie Ward

  1. Absolutely loved her speech. Especially the part about following “The Golden Rule.”

  2. This is a great speech! I especially like #1 – Work Hard. The idea that things that are worth knowing are worth working at is a great one to impart to all students. As a high school teacher, I wish all my students came in with that attitude! When the get frustrated by the subject matter, they tend to give up too easily. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love this speech, especially the two lines of the poem-”If what you have to say will brighten someone’s day, say it!
    If what you have to say will hurt somebody, don’t say it!
    I wll think more clearly before I try to say anything to my kids.

  4. I have to be more clear. I want to know what you wish you knew going in to middle school. Here’s mine: Don’t worry about popularity. All the “cool boys” lose their hair and cheat on their spouses, and all the beautiful girls are frickin’ mean. Steer clear.

  5. I think the best thing about middle school is that it is the first in a long series of “reinventions.” Some of the moms in my neighborhood have talked quite a bit about the fact that even in elementary school, we have some mean girls. So middle school is a chance to specialize in music or art, or math, or sports…and to open up their world to more people. We have 4 or 5 schools feeding into our middle school, so there will be that many more people to get to know.

    One other thing…I remember you as a pretty and popular girl. So if you felt like the “beautiful” girls were mean, that only tells me that Everybody has a little of that insecurity in them. Quirky is good. It makes for a solid adulthood, I think.

    • Megan, you are crazy sweet. I never considered myself “a beautiful girl”: the “beautiful girls” were gorgeous but mean! I never got to sit at THAT lunch table! At least, not in middle school! And by high school, I didn’t care anymore! I was much happier and more centered. You knew the improved “reinvention” of myself! :-) I am worried about these middle years.

  6. Melissa Sorbello

    Quoting Janice Frew: “Use me as an excuse! …Hey kid, you want to try pot? “Sorry, I can’t, my mom drug tests me.” Hey kid, let’s try sex… “Sorry, I can’t, my mom pokes pinholes randomly in all condoms throughout the tri-state area.” :-)” To good not to post =)

    • Russell Fleischer

      Melanie Ward is very wise. Great thoughts for any age, 5th grade or 45 years old. Thanks for posting Renee!

  7. Not looking forward to middle school, thankfully, I have one more year before I have to deal with it. We will most likely be moving to a different district, so I will have to deal with that aspect as well.

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