On Graduation


My son graduates from 5th grade this year. This past year has marked a series of last firsts. Next fall, he, like countless kids before him, will enter the emotionally taxing time referred to as middle school. God help us all.

But first, a final reflection on his time at Iron River Elementary School. Perfection in a highly regulated, underfunded system is not realistic nor expected by this first-time mom. Flaws are a plenty when it comes to our public education system and the value our society put on test scores over people. That’s an argument for a different day. Today, is about people because if I’ve learned one thing from IRES, it is that people matter.

Every kid is unique. Mine is no exception. Imagine my mixed emotions when one of his teachers pulled us aside at conferences and said, “Jake is an amazing leader, he just doesn’t always lead in the right direction”. He’s stubborn like mom and will make an awesome lawyer or con artist. The verdict is still out given he recently weaponized my weekly driving report against me and tried to extort my husband by threatening to start a rumor he was having an affair (he’s not – I’m sorry to say our life is not that interesting) in hopes of scoring v-bucks for Fortnite.

What I do know is that for the past 7-years, I’ve watched him learn, grow, and evolve thanks to the teachers and staff he interacts with every day at IRES. He’s learned that for every action, there is a reaction. Consequences when deserved and second chances when needed. After all, we’re all human and humans make mistakes.
He’s read books, painted, sang songs, danced, and dominated math and spelling. He’s fearful of getting “the look” even though he knows it is well-deserved because he’s been taught the difference between right and wrong.

Lessons about hard work and the importance of showing up for your friends were equally as important as reading comprehension. How to be inclusive and kind, even when it is hard, is a non-negotiable at IRES.

He’s helped bake muffins for mom, wished Iron River a Merry Christmas, and visited with the Easter Bunny. He’s met heroic veterans, been coached by high school basketball players, and given high fives to seniors.

There’s been playground fights, bumpy bus rides, and questionable breakfasts. Sugar highs and emotional lows. Torn pants, endless bruises and playground drama. Virtual learning and social isolation during a Global Pandemic, only to come out stronger – a true testament to the resilience kids have if given a fair shot. And always, mentors to fall back on. A staff that cares. A commitment and acknowledgement of the awesome power teachers and staff have on taking uninformed 4-year-old sponges and churning them into kind little people that will power our future.

No words can express my gratitude for the little Blue Ribbon School that is often overlooked. A school at times described as a drain on our district – too small. Not enough kids. Not enough funding. There’s just never enough to go around. But the one thing the school doesn’t lack is a love for learning and growing together. For that, I am grateful.

Public education is a complex conundrum that I can’t solve in a column. But for every barrier, there are miracles happening behind those walls every single day. I know my kid’s school is not the only one. And I know without a doubt that every kid deserves a school like IRES.

Congratulations graduates and congratulations teachers and staff on making another year count.

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