Reflections from Jen Schuckman at Eighth Grade Celebration

Head of Middle School Jen Schuckman shared remarks with eighth graders and their families at the Eighth Grade Celebration in May 2023.

Good evening and welcome to our celebration of the Class of 2027. We have gathered together tonight to celebrate, honor, reflect, and, most importantly, to commence their next chapter. As a JK-12 school, we get to watch the extraordinary evolution of a class across 14 years and celebrate milestones along the way, and tonight is one of those moments with this amazing group of young adults before us.

Adults often shudder or frown when you mention “middle school,” and they immediately tap into their haunting memories of awkward days as they tried to be some version of themselves somewhere in between childhood and adulthood. They remember all the drama of broken friendships and crushes and painful growth spurts and disappointments around every corner. Middle school is full of all the “feels,” as we like to say. I would offer the counterpoint that these are some of the most captivatingly beautiful years because this is when you get to meet YOU. When you get to be in charge of who you want to be, and you find your way. Your passions become fierce as you fall in love with dance or science, or poetry writing. Your independence awakens, and you find your voice that holds strong opinions and beliefs about the world around you. So while some may cringe or tuck away the memories of these bumpy years, I encourage you to embrace it all and celebrate this moment in your evolution.

Each year, I ask for input from teachers to try and capture the essence of a class, and one particular comment struck me as the perfect message to share with you tonight. This faculty member shared, “Don’t be afraid to outgrow the person you are today.” How perfect is this statement? You are ready to do this. You are ready to leave behind the awkward and the silly, and the growing pains. You have more determination and strength than you realize. You believe in yourselves, and you believe in each other.

Being a science teacher, I have always been fascinated by the various survival adaptations of species, and this message reminded me of the molting of exoskeletons or the shedding of skins. When the inner body grows and builds, and forces an animal to experience extreme change in the name of survival. From the tiny African dwarf frog to the mighty Atlantic lobster to the majestic elk, animals shed feathers or fur, they abandon shells, and they grow roomier skin. (Fun fact: The largest American lobster ever recorded weighed in at just under 45 pounds and was believed to be around 100 years old.) These creatures leave something behind in order to be the next best version of themselves–a version that is bigger, stronger, faster, and better equipped for new challenges. You are that new version of yourself tonight, and that is certainly worthy of celebration.

In addition to the faculty, I asked the eighth-grade students to share a few comments about their class.

  • “I am proud of the progress our class has made in terms of behavior. We don’t have the best reputation, but we have gotten so much better and more respectful as a full class.”
  • “One of our greatest strengths is that we are a tight-knit class; everyone pitches in to help when they can.”
  • “The greatest strength of our class is that we are able to work well together, and we are open to new ideas.”

I also asked for them to share words that best describe the class, and you shared:

  • Diligent, entertaining, positive, close, creative, mindful, limitless, funny, smart, caring, determined

A few important lessons you learned in middle school were:

  • “Persistence and Optimism.”
  • “The teachers are there to help, to know that it is alright to ask for help and time management.”
  • “Give everyone a second chance.”
  • “I learned from my time in middle school at MICDS to never procrastinate on any work.”

A few thank yous to share with the adults here tonight:

  • “Thank you to all of the teachers who have guided us throughout Middle School. Thank you for showing us the ropes and setting us up for a successful Upper School experience. You are appreciated more than you know.”
  • “Thank you for all the lessons you’ve taught me throughout this journey.”
  • “Thank you for putting up with us.”
  • “Thank you, parents, for always being there to lean on.”
  • “Parents, thank you for taking the time to help us along the way.”

I received many thoughtful comments from the Middle School faculty, so here are a few notables to close with:

What are the defining characteristics of the Class of 2027?

  • “They’re loyal to each other.”
  • “They are fun-loving, hardworking, collaborative, smart and athletic kids.”
  • “They are the best hydrated student body ever and they love gum.”

Stand-out moments:

  • “My greatest memory of this class was their resilience in the face of adversity. I still remember being completely amazed at what they were able to achieve during their final quarter of 5th grade while learning from home during the most intense times of the pandemic.”
  • “I remember how quickly they banded together during community service day to tackle any project. They formed assembly lines without prompting and blew away the Director of the NGO with how efficiently and precisely they executed the jobs. It was a proud day all around.”
  • “Students writing gratitude emails to each other and student shout-outs.”
    “Students not successfully dunking certain teachers in the dunking booth.”

And a few words of wisdom for the Class of 2027 as you move ahead:

  • “Look out for one another. You’re at your best when you are working together.”
  • “Surround yourself with people that make you stronger.”
  • “Do not leave work for others to do.”
  • “I can see you playing Tetris and Cookie Clicker.”
  • “Please capitalize proper nouns.”

And so, Class of 2027, outgrow your shells, stay determined, keep working together, persist in all endeavors, and hydrate.

And most importantly, do the right thing…[and students shouted back, “because it’s the right thing to do!”]

Thank you for celebrating with us tonight.