Lancer Letter – A Graduation Reflection

Submitted by Richard Scaletta, GM School District

When you read this letter, it will be Friday, June, 2, the last day of classes for the General McLane Class of 2017. This day is always one of mixed emotion for me. I look forward to the end of the frenetic school year and the less chaotic days of summer; but, there is also a bit of melancholy as we say good-bye to the young people who have been with us for as many as 13 years.

I’ve always asserted that one of the great blessings of being an educator is the opportunity to see children grow and mature. From the days of the first grade “missing tooth” grin to the confident smile of the senior year photo, these students have grown in every way – and we were able to watch it happen!

Consider how we get to observe them go from a shy performer on stage to the confident star who belts out a terrific song at the Broadway Dinner. Or, the skinny and somewhat awkward athlete whose performance in middle school becomes a distant memory when the more mature and athletic body of the senior year performs with grace and power. Then there is the great advance in their intellect: from learning to read with stories about puppies and dinosaurs to presentations made for engineering competitions touching on the subject of astrophysics.
Yes, we are blessed to watch it all happen!

I must admit that at times, I am somewhat envious of our graduating seniors. I’m envious of all the many opportunities they have had at General McLane. My high school did not offer a fraction of the academic and extra-curricular offerings we have here. I’m sure part of that was the time period in which I attended high school but as our own students have recognized, many schools in Erie county do not offer as much. I wonder how I might be different were I a General McLane graduate from a recent year. While that is a question that may never be answered, we often can point to a graduate and know that without a certain program, a certain class or a certain teacher or coach’s influence, that student’s life would be quite different Often, the student recognizes it as well, if not before graduating, certainly after.

For the vast majority of our students, the General McLane experience has been one of nurturing, self-discovery and the gradual development of independence and competence. The students who have taken advantage of what we have to offer have flourished. We don’t have many students “hating school” and dying to get out. “Meeting students where they are” means that they feel respected and valued. Many graduates and seniors I talk to speak fondly of their GM experience and many graduates email and come back to visit to share their success and their gratitude for what happened here.

One graduate emailed Principal Mennow to tell him of an assignment given in her first semester English class at college. They were to write an essay about how their high school had failed them. Our graduate was taken back by the assignment and instead, wrote how General McLane had not failed her and in fact, helped her be successful. Sadly, many of her classmates were able to write the essay as assigned.

On this last day for seniors, the class of 2017 will visit both elementary and the middle schools. They will walk the halls to the applause of students and teachers. This “graduate walk” is done in recognition of the solid foundation provided by these schools, recognizing that a quality high school experience would not be possible without the stellar teaching and nurturing that occurred in the early years.

I like to think of the General McLane School District as a family – students, teachers, staff, parents, taxpayers and community members – all who play specific roles in helping our children mature and develop. As the class of 2017 walks across the stage at commencement on June 8, graduates may not be fully aware of the intricate network of people and experiences that have synergistically played a part to make them who they’ve become; but, if General McLane always holds a special place in their heart and coming back to visit feels like coming home, then we’ve all done our job.

The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion, and not necessarily those of or our sponsors.

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