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Congrats, Grads! Oh, the Places You'll Go!

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Question to our sweet little grad: "What was your favorite thing about graduating preschool last Sunday?"

Answer: "Wearing the white outfit with the funny hat." 

Well, that about sums it up. The biggers getting set for big kids school. The littlers also wearing caps and gowns because they were jealous and graduated to pre-kindergarten. A grand performance including dancing, singing, little speeches by each child standing on a platform, and of course my favorite part, the Pledge. Teachers gave each child a personalized book and each family a unique keepsake gift made by their child. Virtuosity of teacher love and amazing student performances. Laughter, tears of joy. Oh, the places these littles will go! I'm so sure of that. Childhood is a precious time!

I am so happy to write this grad post and admittedly nervous. The last time I was this jittery was right before I gave a Commencement speech for Chapman University. I practically fell off the platform. Tripped, no kidding, but think I made up for it with what I said. My three best words were "Just Do It."

We're closing in on the end of grad season, so today's the day I share my thoughts, hopefully motivate, inspire and thank you for a great learning year. We had four grads in our family this season, one to go. That's what makes it dicey, to get to them all, preschool through high school. The family reunion part is the best and seeing in my head that little kid now all grown up, towering over me. I am the shrimp in the family, no longer the baby, but nana of the babies.

Lately I've been sorting stacks of photos, probably like you at this joyful time in life, and am amazed how time flew, my kids now grown up with their kids, and a lot of graduating. The life cycle continues. The rituals and celebrations matter enormously.

I think of each family graduate, the games we attended, the tears, the prom dates or lack of, school projects, curfews and messy rooms. Now my kids tell me all the not great things they pulled off we didn't know about. They say my husband and I were the strictest parents of all. Probably because I was a Principal and Bill had been the kid who was too cool for words.

Once I got called by the high school that my daughter cut class. I said to give her detention for forging the note. I was pretty rough on her. She ended up being in the Breakfast Club for a month. When she graduated high school, then college, I knew we had done a darn good job raising her. Four kids, a lot of grads. And now their kids.

Graduations are an important part of the life cycle. Not only do we celebrate our childrens' successes, we hold our collective breath, what's next? Lately I've been reading that most graduation speeches this year focused on grit, overcoming adversity, tech and the global aspect of our life. Also the tragic. The need for Inclusion. Equity. An end to violence. 

I have faith in our graduates. I have faith in our country. I believe each of our children is ready to take on the world. I know that our nation's teachers are extraordinary and I commend Principals for being role models setting the tone, offering vision and making sure each child graduates with skills necessary for success in today's fast paced world. The future is now.

How do we send off our children in the very best way? Pebbles to stumble over, mountains to climb. Hope. Passion. 

I just love graduations of every kind and find reasons to routinely celebrate. I felt I graduated when I sent off my first Tweet last year. I am such a lifelong learner. That's what we want for our kids. It's the way to life success, constant learning. So much more to know.

At the moment, I'm hanging out in the middle of a beehive of family activity. A few minutes ago, newly five dressed up for her Daddy and gave a rousing performance, worthy of Instagram. I dug out two of my well used classroom microphone sets- the old box kind, with wireless mikes. Very low tech, but not to Morgan. 

I'm living in the moment when I'm with my family. Newly five is now outside in her party dress batting at a baseball, waiting for me. I don't want to miss any of these precious moments before her next grad. That's what life is all about, isn't it? So I'm close to wrapping this post up.

My three grad words today are Winston Churchill's "Never Give Up." Actually, Churchill said "Never give in", but it's the same thing to me. Tenacity keeps me going in the roughest moments we all face.

The greatest motivational speakers all tell us the same thing. To put one foot in front of another. To see what the future can look like in a better, more loving world, and make no excuses. Just get the job done, taking care of others along the way. I believe there is no failure, only feedback and mid-course corrections are just fine. Striving for excellence is the only way to go and being a champion does not come overnight. It take effort, practice and a can-do attitude.

There is no way I can write anything better than the speeches selected for us byEdutopia. The impassioned speech by Donovan Livingston is sure to fire you up, Maya Rudolph wil leave you laughing. Share your favorites with loved ones and friends. They are heartwarming, motivational and insanely inspirational.

Here are some of my favorite very best grad speeches. I hope you enjoy, learn and grow from them. Most, of all, as you find yourself reaching for the tissues, validate yourself for a job well done, whether you are the grad, teacher or loved one of a graduate. 

It's been quite a year. Enjoy your graduations, savor each moment. You deserve to congratulate yourself. I wish you all a life of goodness, paying it forward, continued learning and sharing love for less fortunate, all the things I know you are already doing, because you're you.

Most of all, I hope you continue reading, spread the joy of reading and teach someone else to read or read better.

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita

"Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!" Thanks, Dr. Seuss!Places Youll Go


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Modeling the art and craft of teaching reading for 47 years, Mrs. Wirtz taught language arts, speech and reading at all levels preschool-adult, including penal. She served as Pre-school and K-6 Principal. Rita was also a Curriculum Consultant, ESEA, Title I Program Evaluator and literacy trainer. At the university level she taught school administration in the Bilingual Cohort at CSUS and National University, Sacto. Mrs. Wirtz also taught all reading courses for Chapman University for many years in Sacramento and Placerville, Ca., and mentored student teachers. On the national level she was a well known motivational Keynote Speaker and Seminar Leader. Most importantly, Rita walked the talk, teaching with teachers in more than 500 K-12 and special needs classrooms. Rita authored books, publications and Pre- YouTube, videos were filmed by San Diego County Office of Education. Calif. ASCD authored companion book guides, and Calif. school districts correlated her basic skills instruction with State Standards. Mrs. Wirtz' newest book is Reading Champs! Teaching Reading Made Easy, a review of the basic building blocks of English and Reading. Rita is currently teaching in a multi-age, fully incuded preschool, ages 2-8. Find Mrs. Wirtz on Twitter @RitaWirtz, Facebook and website- www.ritawirtz.com.

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Guest Saturday, 23 February 2019