The Loh Life

Ready, Set, Culminate

Sandra Tsing Loh finds out that it's tough being a graduating fifth-grader.

Last week was my younger daughter's fifth grade "culmination."  It was a joyous event celebrating her ascension into... SIXTH grade.  That's right.  Apparently, kids don't just graduate in 12th grade, now.  The makers of placards and trophies have now deemed that children "culminate" upon completing preschool, kindergarten, fifth grade, eighth grade, and even summer swim class.

But, I don't mean to grouse.  I was very happy to be there.  Suzy has gone to school there since kindergarten, and it was fun to see all these now-tweens in their ties and party dresses, semi-grown-up.  Then, they each stepped up to the podium to give a short culmination speech.  All seventy of them.  We wouldn't want anybody to feel left out, now, would we?

If you have fallen out of touch with the pulse of our country's fifth graders, herewith is my two-minute update.

There was much talk of memorable field trips, particularly The Griffith Observatory, the Skirball, and something with the word "adobe" in it.  But, by far the runaway favorite?  Second grade whale-watching.

OH YEAH... fifth-graders are very eager to publicly thank the friends who pulled them through "when times were tough."  Perhaps like when they realized their field trips peaked in second grade, with the whale-watching, and - from hence on - instead of the thrill of watching a classmate vomit over the side of the boat, their field trips would be about visiting museums.  Anyway.  Some will thank just three friends, some, like my daughter, will insist on thanking 15.  At her school, as an example, the award for most thanked friend - I idly kept count - goes to... someone named Yamillah.  To boys and girls, Yamillah is good people.  Congratulations.

Fifth grade teachers are dutifully thanked for, and I quote, "preparing me for middle school."  Most popular, though, appeared to be kindergarten teachers and some teaching assistant named Fay, who has long since been whisked away by the district.  But Fay, you're still remembered.  It is thanks to you - I think, it was starting to run together - that these eleven-year-olds plan to study nursing at Cal State Northridge, to be a doctor at Harvard, or to make a million dollars playing soccer.

But, the most eagerly anticipated events by far, in the future, included: 1) Having a
locker in sixth grade and... 2) drum roll... for those continuing at the school, which goes until twelfth grade, finally being able to use the vending machines!

I admit I was charmed to be reminded of a time of so many heartfelt dreams, both big and small.  Congratulations, graduates!  May your snacks be full of Baked Lays, and your days full of whale-watching.


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