Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

May 22, 2012

Stepstools and Stepping Stones: Graduation and Moving Up

 One of the most important tools for me, five feet tall on a good day, is the folding step stool I keep in my kitchen.  It gives me the height and reach to grab those essentials in the far reaches of my cabinets.  Without this nifty aid for the vertically challenged, my recipes would miss all those ingredients from the top shelves, and who knows what would lurk in the deep recesses of the fridge.

Last night, I did what many of us do this time of year.  I went to graduation.  Usually, I am kvelling (getting pride) at the graduation of a child or relative.  This time, it was a different group of “children” that I joined to celebrate this milestone – the students at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, where I have the privilege to teach and direct the doctoral program.

The evening was a wonderful blend of pomp and circumstance, a sea of graduates and faculty in Harry Potter like robes,  with down-home, family celebration.  Words of thanks and inspiration from educational luminaries including President of Yeshiva University Richard Joel, and the director of the Jim Joseph Foundation, Chip Edelsberg were echoed in the students’ speeches.   Adding to the feeling of family was a convocation offered by the spouse of a doctoral grad, another doctoral grad hooding her daughter and son-in-law who received their Masters degrees, a faculty beaming with pride and good wishes, and of course, the room filled with parents, spouses, and children watching their parents and sometimes their teachers and principals, receive advanced degrees.

Almost seven years ago I joined the University faculty, and about five years ago began directing the doctoral program.  Education and graduations were not new to me, since as Director of Training and Director of Psychology at a medical center,  I proudly launched  psychologists year after year, into careers of helping and healing.  Yet I feel really fortunate to have moved to a position where I am able to teach teachers and educators. Last night, as we had, one after another, Masters and Doctoral graduates, step up to be ceremonially hooded and diploma-ed, it felt wonderful to imagine their talent, knowledge and dedication populating classrooms and schools across the country.  They have been empowered as not only great  educators, but as change agents, ready to move the schools fortunate enough to hire them, towards 21st century learning infused by an ancient and exquisite tradition.

In the Talmud, R. Chanina says, “I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and the most from my students” (Ta’anis 7a).  It is fitting, then, that I could have used my step stool last evening to hood the doctoral students who I have watched grow over these past years.  That they tower above me is neither surprising nor distressing.  It has been such a joy to watch them grow in stature, to see their hearts, minds and souls expand and embrace best practices and new ways of teaching and learning. It was a special joy to hear from all of them about their current plans and future goals, and to know that last night’s graduation processional was not, for any of them, the end of a journey.  It was just another educational step stool – a tool to help them reach new heights.  Knowing that gave me, from my meager five foot tall stance, an enormous boost and a beautiful view of the ever-changing landscape.

Congratulations to all Graduates . . . and a special thank you to teachers, from kindergarten through graduate school, who make graduations possible.



  1. It reminded me of “promotions” of my students, at the elementary level…. even then, 4th graders were my height!! Congrats to you, too, as you don the cap and gown each year, in celebration of the successes of students and teachers! Hopefully, and in the case of your graduates, “those who can teach”, contrary to an adage of the cynical, which crops its ugly head now and then!! S. Milch

    Comment by E and S Milch — May 23, 2012 @ 1:21 pm |Reply

  2. As a participant in the Pomp and Circumstance I could not stop grinning. I had been afraid I would need a walker- a tool useful for someone of the more senior persuasion – to march or slide down that aisle, but I made it and WHAT A SENIOR MOMENT:) It was an uplifting experience for me to see the younger generation of educators and actually rekindled my desire to continue in the field- though I have been bitten by the research bug.
    Thank you for the push, and I will buy my own beret!

    Lynda Zentman

    Comment by Lynda M. Zentman — May 23, 2012 @ 2:20 pm |Reply

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