Editor’s note: This blog was presented by Middle School Principal Bill Wolf-Tinsman as his Continuation address on Tuesday, May 31, 2022.

I am often startled by how much the Colorado Academy Eighth Graders have learned and grown over the course of their Middle School experience. This year is no exception, except for the fact that this group has blossomed during one of the most topsy-turvy three-year stretches I can remember. They have grown as people, artists, scholars, and athletes, despite the trepidations and roadblocks thrown up by a pandemic, and to my great joy, they slid across the Continuation home plate looking like the all-stars they are.

Of course, this process of maturation was not all cookies and cream. There were stretches of online learning, which, I’m sure, seemed to students (and teachers) interminable. There were also the requisite number of pratfalls, oopses, and learning experiences that come from making age-appropriate mistakes. Missing homework, forgotten tests, the occasional bending of a school rule or two, but this is the good stuff, the things we learn from to become wiser, more resilient, and generally better able to meet future expectations.

Remarkable growth and good advice

Taken as a whole, the growth in these young people (and frankly all of the kids in the Middle School!) has been remarkable. It is good to remember that this happened little by little. It was not overnight that our Eighth Graders woke up and said, “Huh! That’s strange. I am taller than Mr. W-T.” No, that happened inch by inch over three years, just as their maturity as writers, readers, problem solvers, and collaborators happened over time. Still, just like compound interest, when added together, these small steps forward (and up!) are game-changers in the lives of our young people.

At Continuation, I had a chance to pass on a few last tidbits of advice for the class. I encouraged our students to remember the messages shared by three speakers whom we had at various Town Meetings and from Madeleine Albright, our former Secretary of State.

From Vishavjit Singh, the Sikh Captain America, we learned not to limit ourselves to what others believe about us.

From Enyi Jama, a recent refugee from Somalia, we learned never to let obstacles stand in the way of accomplishing important goals.

From Stu Cabe, we learned to behave like “Big Elephants,” by doing the right thing whenever we can.

And, and from Madeleine Albright, we learned to share our many talents with the world to make it a better place.

Overcoming obstacles

I truly believe that this Eighth Grade class overcame obstacles few other grades have faced. They came together as a class, shared their good nature, and are ready for their next challenges.

For the teachers, the onset of summer provides a well-earned respite to refuel and recharge. Each of us will take time to reflect on what worked well this year and what we believe we can improve and retool for the fall. This might be the creation of a new unit or the improvement of one that is tried and true.

In all cases, our goal will be to create a unique and ever-evolving set of experiences in the art studios, classrooms, and athletic fields that will positively shape next year’s Middle School students. If we do it right, little by little, our students will become a bit more resilient, a touch more empathetic, a tad better at one skill after another, until, all at once, like butterflies emerging from a chrysalis, we will again be amazed in early June when they walk across the stage and continue on to high school.