In mere days or weeks, the school closest to you will hold its graduation ceremony. Students will move on to the next stage in their lives. For some, it means moving to college or career. For others, it means advancing to middle school or high school.

In this post, I share one tradition started in the elementary school where I was principal. We designed it to add a keepsake for each of our students as they left us for junior high.

Our Awards Day included a 6th-grade graduation ceremony. Each 6th grade student walked across the auditorium stage to receive a diploma. With it was another piece of paper. Except for the name, the wording was the same:

Dear __________, 

Your completion of elementary school is a big step in your education. At Graham, we congratulate you on the interest and dedication which have brought you to this important milestone in your life. 

Your learning experiences, however, have only begun. It is our hope that you will approach the next grades with eagerness equal to your abilities and take advantage of the many wonderful opportunities open to you. 

 It has been our pleasure to have been associated with you through your elementary school years. We are convinced that this school will always be proud of you as you progress along education’s path. 

We shall continue to watch your achievements with interest and pride. 

Best wishes, 

What made the letters unique were the signatures at the bottom. Each letter included signatures of the adults in the building who had formed a relationship with that student. No two students had the same set of signatures.

How we did it…

The process was simple. I created the text of the letter and mail merged it to a spreadsheet. We pasted the names of our 6th-grade students into that spreadsheet. We then printed a set of letters. Each had the same text except for the insertion of the student’s first name.

In a faculty meeting, I explained the process. I signed the batch of letters and passed the folder to the 6th-grade teachers. Since we did some changing of classes, the 6th-grade teachers signed all the letters. They passed the folder to the 5th-grade teachers. They signed letters for any of the students they had taught or any student with whom they had established any sort of relationship. Over the next couple of weeks, the folder would work its way to each grade level. Finally, the folder made its way to the music teacher, librarian, counselor, lunchroom staff, and custodians.

Any staff member could sign any letter they wished. When the folder made its way back to me, it contained letters rich with signatures of the people who had worked with each student through the years.

On Awards Day, each 6th-grade student marched proudly across the stage. They received a diploma. Most likely, those diplomas found their way into frames and onto bedroom walls.

Each student also received that letter, one signed by all the people who had helped shape elementary school memories. Those letters made their way to scrapbooks to keep forever.

Several other principals with whom I have shared this idea also use it successfully. As you close this school year, consider this idea in your school.

What end-of-school traditions do you have at your school that might benefit others? Click above to share this question with others. Leave a comment here on the blog.