Growing up in the 19__s in Parsons, Kansas, every kid dreamed of having their own bicycle. My favorite bicycle was a Schwinn Stingray Fast Back. It was purple, and had a long seat that we referred to as a “banana seat.” That elongated seat glistened and sparkled in the sunlight. The seat was long enough for two riders, or to hold me as I stood up on the seat cruising down a hillside, shouting “Look, no hands!”
I remember being so excited when I was surprised with my very own bicycle. It was shining and new, with black sidewall tires. I thought this bike the coolest thing I had ever seen. I also recall that it came equipped with training wheels. I wasn’t crazy about those training wheels – those where for babies! But, at that moment in time, I wasn’t prepared to balance my way to my destination. It wasn’t long before I discovered how to remove those extra wheels, and wiggled and wobbled my way down the street. Removing those training wheels represented freedom and sense of pure trust and confidence in my own skills. I was anxious to set off to discover new things, and find my own way. That bicycle represented my independence, my ability to direct my own course, and I trusted that I was prepared to handle any obstacle or challenge I would face.
I found myself thinking of that old Stingray as I was thinking about the students who are about to graduate from our school district. I am confident that our graduates have the skills necessary to be successful in the next phase of their journey. We have nurtured, encouraged, and pushed our students to achieve. They have developed strong literacy skills, mastered complex content, and have learned the importance of working in teams. Many of our students will go directly to college; others will complete their technical credential, while some will start their own businesses. Our students are ready. We have prepared them well. Yet, as any parent can tell you, it’s worrisome when the training wheels come off. We must trust. Trust that we have guided and prepared our students.
What I wish for our graduates, as well as all who will follow, is the joy I felt when standing on that banana seat coasting full speed down the hill with no hands. People watching called me foolish. It was, but I trusted my skills and knowledge to avoid the pot holes and curves in the road. I can still remember the pure joy I felt during those moments. Following your dreams can be risky, but there is no better feeling than pursuing what you love. Graduates: Prepare, put forth the effort, trust your skills, and focus on the road ahead. Stand up on your own “banana seat” and go for it! It’s Up to Us!