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Roads for High School Graduates

Congratulations, high school graduates!  You’ve successfully completed thirteen years of education and this week you’ll receive diplomas during graduation ceremonies. 

            As students you’ve added layers of knowledge.  You’ve counted by tens and added fractions and found the area of rectangles and solved A x 2 + B x + C = y.  You’ve learned to write d and b with lines on the right and left sides of circles and the difference between a synonym and antonym and how to write an essay.  You’ve heard about civilizations and wars and compromises and peace treaties. You’ve identified seven continents and five oceans and can explain how the Earth rotates and revolves.  

            You’ve gained experience interacting with peers.  On the playground, you waited your turn to go down a slide.  You worked with classmates on small group science projects and social studies reports.  You performed with a group: a sports team, a dance team, a choral presentation, a play, or a debate.

            Everything about your last two months of high school has been different than expected, than planned. But some things haven’t changed: you’ve followed instructions and directions from teachers and coaches and parents. I can hear you say, “Now, I can do whatever I want,” because that’s what eighteen-year-old high school graduates usually think, even us grandparents had such a thought.

              So, now what?  The COVID19 pandemic might limit your plans, but your life as a graduate will be different from that of a high school student.  Some of you will head off to higher learning:  vocational schools, colleges, universities.  Some will start full-time jobs.  Some will combine school and work.  Some will join the armed forces.  Some will accept more home responsibilities. 

            I wish for words of wisdom to ease these transitions, these travels on new paths, new roads.  Two quotes come to mind:  take the road less travelled and take the high road.

            In an English class you probably heard Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.”  The last lines read, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”   Those words remind me of when my dad said, “Just because everyone one else is doing it, doesn’t mean you do it.”  And Dad’s example was the foolish one that is joked about – just because everyone else jumps off a tall building, are you going to? 

            Will you take the low road or high road? According to an old Scottish tune, the low road is longer and easier while the high road is shorter, but much more arduous.  Taking the more difficult high road has come to mean when faced with choices the high road is the morally right choice.  Take the more ethical option, the one that lets you have a clear conscience, the one you’ll be glad for your parents and everyone who loves you to know about.             Graduates

What’s your Advice to Graduates?

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 7.56.24 AMTake care of the little things, and the big things take care of themselves. That’s my advice. No matter how old the graduate. A six-year-old moving on from kindergarten or an eighteen-year-old headed to college or a university graduate ready for that first real job. Life is about little things.

            Children don’t learn to read a book. They learn the sounds of letters and how those sounds combine to make words. The words become phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and finally, a book. School assignments divided into small parts can be mastered. One problem completed begins a thirty-problem math assignment. Gathering materials for a science experiment is a small task.

In the workplace, few people begin in their ideal position. They do the mundane work so fellow employees can finish a big project. It’s documented that workers who do small things, such as get to work on time and complete tedious tasks well, have better chances for advancement.

I’m not sure when I first heard about little and big things. Maybe from Mom as she stood over me and taught me to thread her sewing machine and then sew. And finally complete a dress for the 4-H contest. Or when Dad insisted I make an outline for a fifth grade oral book report.

By my high school days taking care of little things became my motto, even though I didn’t always follow it. When I was a first year teacher, I was jerked from failing an enormous task. I was overwhelmed. Too many students, too many lessons, too many meetings and conferences, too many papers, too many bulletin boards. A wise principal handed me a tissue to wipe my tears of frustration and told me to go back to my classroom and teach math for one hour. Do one small thing.

My motto has served me well. I preached it to myself while raising children.   Swaddle tightly. Wipe up spilled milk. Wash diapers. Get them to school on time. For supper, serve two foods they’ll eat.

I preached it to my elementary students. Do daily homework. Write one paragraph. Memorize the multiples of 2, then work up thru 12s.

I’ve recited my motto to Daughter and Son and my Grands. And sometimes I get it back. Elaine, age 6, told me last week that I had to measure exactly ¾ cup water or the strawberry jam we were making wouldn’t turn out right. “It’s just a little thing, Gran.”

My maxim isn’t original. During the 19th century, Emily Dickinson wrote, “If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves. You can gain more control over your life by paying closer attention to the little things.” John Wooten, who coached the UCLA basketball team to ten national championships beginning in the 1960s, said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Take care of the little things. Words to live by. For people of all ages.

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