This is the season for graduations, and for all the emotions that come with them: pride, joy, nostalgia, and even bittersweet feelings at seeing a child growing into the next stage of life, becoming more independent, looking ahead to the future.
In this season of graduation, it can be easy to discount or leave behind the many children who do not develop on a traditional student trajectory along with their peers. Yet, when it comes to these children, graduation can be an opportunity to remind ourselves of Ben Zoma’s insightful words in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers): “Who is wise? One who learns from every person.” Especially during graduation time, it is the children on diverse student trajectories who are also our teachers.
One lesson that I have learned from these teachers is that, at every stage in life, we want to find things to celebrate — to have gratitude for our achievements — and as Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain neuroscientist and stroke survivor, shares in her book My Stroke of Insight, we need to celebrate every single achievement, no matter how great or small. In her recovery, the simple task of picking up a pen was beyond her. So she broke down the task into many parts: can I find the pen on the table? Can my hand move to touch the pen? Can my hand pick up the pen? And each time she was able to achieve that individual step, she celebrated. And she had gratitude.
So let us share in our celebrations, whatever they may be, and cherish our children who are our teachers.