There is a function in math called the “Greatest Integer Function,” which assigns a value to every number that is the largest integer less than or equal to that number. For example, the numbers 1, 1.2 and 1.9 would all have a value of 1 for this function. As you can imagine, this leads to a graph that looks a lot like a set of stairs, and is the typical example used when describing what a “discontinuous” function looks like. I found myself thinking of this over the past week, as I watched my daughter move up a grade in school.
I was lucky enough to not be teaching my summer school class on my daughter’s last day of school this past week, and so I was able to go to the year’s closing ceremony. It marked the last day of school, and served to wish the students well as they went off into the summer. It would be the last time I would sit in an assembly this school year, and I have to admit that I shed a few tears. Indeed, one fifth grade girl offered me some tissues, something that I hope my daughter did not see. She is embarrassed that I tend to shed tears at events marking milestones in her life. But then, doesn’t every mother?
The students sat with their classrooms, grouped by grade, and, as the principal noted, they all looked too big for the grade they were in. I looked at the students in the year my daughter will be entering in a few months, and found it hard to believe that the little baby I knew so recently was really growing up so quickly. I looked back on the year, a very successful year for her, and marveled that it was only a few years ago that she was struggling so hard in school. It only took finding the right environment and some amazing teachers, and now she is earning fabulous grades and doing wonderfully. This year has been a year of realizing just what she can do, and how unlimited the possibilities are in her life. As her teacher once said to me, “she can be anything.” Right now, she says she wants to be a paleontologist. I hope to take her “fossil hunting” this summer.
At one point, the teachers and other faculty were called to the front of the room to be recognized by the students. The students began by clapping, but the clapping quickly evolved into cheering and stomping and other noises that one might rightfully expect at a sports event. I had to laugh, as these students were growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, which spends its days longing for a championship team of any sort. Perhaps someday they will be able to offer such cheers for a championship-winning sports team, too. The teachers were touched at the cheering, which needed to be quieted so it would not go on all day.
As the ceremony closed, the principal dismissed each class one by one. First the seventh graders, who were entering the eighth grade, then the sixth graders, and so on, until the little ones exited following their teachers. I gave my daughter a “thumbs up” as she passed by, hoping she did not see the tears in my eyes.
It reminded me of what our parish priest had said on the occasion of her “graduation” from the pre-school Sunday school program years ago. He said “you sent us your toddlers, and we are giving them back to you as kindergarteners.”
Wishing everyone a wonderful summer!