Then I remember how big the 6th graders seemed when I first walked into school with my two kindergarteners. The “big kids” towered over the littles. They moved confidently through the halls, laughing and talking all the way, oblivious to how BIG they were.
Now my two oldest are 6th graders, and even my own littlest is one of the “big kids” now, in 4th grade. The kids who were 6th graders when mine started kindergarten are now high school seniors – “big kids” in a whole different way.
There were several aspects of being 6th graders my older two children happily anticipated as they started this last year of elementary school. Sixth grade is the culminating year at their school, their seventh school year traveling the same hallways, playing on the same playground, and following the same schedule.
Finally, they would be the BKOC – the Big Kids on Campus.
One of the things I love about their school is that the older kids are encouraged and guided to become leaders in various activities. While they were looking forward to a new teacher, FIRST LEGO League, and just being the oldest, the kids were most excited about the responsibilities that come with being in 6th grade: leading mixed-age Peace Groups, working with the 1st graders on various projects, planning and orchestrating the school-wide end-of-the-year Festival of the Arts.
Last week, the 6th graders helped the 1st graders carve pumpkins. The older kids also paired up with their 1st grade partners during the annual Halloween parade through town – one of my absolute favorite Franconia traditions. With no littles of my own needing help with costumes or maneuvering the route, I joined the crowd of parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors gathered to watch the procession of super heroes, princesses, goblins, and vampires stroll through town.
I watched as one of my sixth graders (the other was in Boston for a different parade) shepherded her two 1st grade charges from candy bowl to candy bowl, the littles each holding tightly to her hands.
It’s not quite true to say the transformation from wide-eyed, gap-toothed little kid to self-assured, take-control big kid surprises me. I’ve watched it happen, gradually, over the years. What’s surprising is how quickly those years seem to pass. When I close my eyes, I can still see my own 1st graders, small and sticking close to my side. When I open my eyes, those same kids are nearly as tall as I am and branching out more and more, realizing little by little that there’s a whole big world out there.
As much as my 6th graders are embracing this school year, there is also some trepidation about what comes next, as they worry about being ready for middle school, leaving the familiar boundaries, stretching just a bit into that bigger world. I’ve watched other classes of sixth graders, though, and I know once April vacation hits, these kids will be looking more forward than backward. They’ll be ready for the next step, eager – if still anxious – to move on.
For now, they’re busily preparing for the upcoming FIRST LEGO League competition and starting to plan for Festival of the Arts. And they’re looking forward to their next project with the 1st graders, building gingerbread houses in December: a sweet tradition, in more ways than one.