Head of Middle School Jen Schuckman Reflects at Eighth Grade Celebration

At our annual Eighth Grade Celebration held during the last week of school, Head of Middle School Jen Schuckman addressed eighth graders and their families before their transition into the Upper School at MICDS. She also presented the Duncan Award to Middle School Arts Teacher Jason Roberts. The Duncan Award is a faculty award voted on by the eighth-grade class. Here are her remarks.

Good evening, and welcome to our celebration of the Class of 2028. Before sharing a few remarks, I have the honor of recognizing one of our faculty members on behalf of this class. Each year, the eighth-grade class votes for the Duncan Award, which is presented to a middle school faculty member whose hard work, determination, and selfless giving challenged students to strive for excellence and achieve their full potential. Congratulations to this year’s recipient, Mr. Jason Roberts.

In thinking about the Class of 2028 and your journey over the past four years, I was reminded of a favorite song. Mr. Clarke may have also inspired this connection as he has been spontaneously singing this song in the halls. And although Mr. Roberts says anyone can sing, I kindly disagree and will spare you all. The song goes like this: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.” For many of us, this is simply a favorite children’s song, a quiet lullaby. What you may not know is that “You Are My Sunshine” has been around for about 85 years and has been recorded by over 350 artists, including Jimmie Davis, Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Doris Day, Ray Charles, Carly Simon, and most recently, Christina Perri. It also made an appearance in an episode of The Simpsons and was on the soundtrack for the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? It’s a memorable, heartfelt, humble tune that has stood the test of time.

And that is exactly the legacy that you, the Class of 2028, leave behind – memorable, heartfelt, and humble. Your middle school years started out in the most stressful and disappointing circumstances of the pandemic, and yet you didn’t miss a beat. You were in unfamiliar classrooms and hallways, eating and learning in small groups and trying your best behind the masks to figure out middle school life. And every day, you brought the sunshine – we could see the sparkle in your eyes and hear it in your contagious laughter. Over the years, your light continued to strengthen, even when Mother Nature continued to bring more gray skies that canceled your trip to Hawn State Park and cut short your recent trip to the zoo. You never complained. That is how you roll. You do not let the obstacles stand in your way. You extend kindness and patience and gratitude and find joy no matter what. And this is because you act on behalf of one another. It is never about you individually but rather how you shine as a whole.

If you consider the science of the sun for a moment – the inner workings are quite chaotic as nuclear fusion continually fuels its glow. Bonds break, and bonds reform, making helium from hydrogen as the particles bounce and collide. But from our view, it is simply bright and warm. As a class, you do the same. You bounce and break and collide individually as you grow and learn, but because you continually prioritize the good of the whole, you shine brightly regardless of what you might be challenged by. You are our sunshine.

In preparation for tonight’s celebration, I asked the faculty to share some thoughts about the Class of 2028, and these comments further exemplify the character of this group:

  • They are leaders. They are kind. These kids have big hearts. This class has a desire to be great.
  • They hear when other classes do not have a good reputation, and they are aware that they do not want this for their own class.
  • This class has grown in its support of each other. It has many very strong leaders. Its future is bright!
  • My hope is that they continue to be kind to each other and the world around them.
  • I was blessed to have you as my first class at MICDS. Each of you made my days brighter last year, and I will miss seeing your faces in the Danforth hallways. You were the best class to celebrate a World Cup year with!
  • The great people in this class work well together, no matter who they are tasked to work with.
  • The class of 2028 was my first class of students at MICDS when they were in sixth grade. I feel so fortunate to have been welcomed by such kind and passionate young people.
  • One teacher asked: Remember when I lost my voice for several months? Yeah, that wasn’t very fun for me. But you were super understanding and supportive. Thank you for being so patient with me.
  • I have never once worried about any trouble with them while I was supervising recess or trips or any other kind of activity. They are kind and trustworthy.

And when I asked you, eighth grade, to reflect, you echoed these very same qualities:

  • Our kindness and growth, how close we are to each other, how much we care for each other.
  • The greatest strengths of our class are that we have fun together and we are open to growth.
  • I believe my class’s greatest strength is being energetic. Our class is extremely outgoing and welcoming. What I’m most proud of is how persevering we all are.

You described yourselves as:

  • Smart, funny, and kind
  • Ambitious, hardworking, and athletic
  • Kind, respectful, caring
  • Athletic, social, and fun
  • Collaborative, friendly, and passionate
  • Ambitious, eager, and adaptable

You noted that you have learned:

  • Speak up when you don’t understand something the teacher is teaching.
  • We are more confident thanks to both music/art classes, Spiderweb Discussions, and presentations.
  • Reach out for help, not only to peers but also teachers.
  • Don’t stress about assignments too much and how to study better.
  • We have learned some great lessons on time management and the consequences if we do not do a good job of it.
  • Advocating for yourself and others is very important, whether it be asking a question in class, communicating with a teacher, or defending a classmate when they aren’t there. Also that consistent hard work and organization leads to success.
  • I have learned to be part of the community, even if it is small. Just connecting with a new person every once in a while makes school seem less stressful and more fun.

To your teachers, you wanted to share:

  • Faculty, you have made this journey through Middle school as enjoyable as school can get. Seeing all of your smiles everyday lifts everyone up and makes us have a better day no matter what.
  • Thank you for your patience and support.
  • You have been so helpful and welcoming.

And to your parents:

  • Thank you for always being supportive in our endeavors and understanding or helping us at home.
  • Thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend a school like MICDS.
  • Thank you for supporting us all! We wouldn’t be able to get through middle school without you.
  • Thank you for always being there when we need it the most, sticking with us on late night assignments, driving us to sports and school, and always putting a smile on our faces.

And so, Class of 2028, you are ready—you are more than ready. It has been our honor to teach you and learn from you. Please take care of each other, be good humans, and always look for those moments to be the sunshine. And, of course, do the right thing…[because it’s the right thing to do!]