There were a handful of times, in my life as an elementary school mom, when I felt the tears springing to my eyes. The sixth-grade Clap-Out was one of them.
This morning, as the District 58 school year drew to a close, sixth-graders marched through the school hallways one last time as younger students, parents and teachers literally clapped them out of elementary school.
"It really is a lovely tradition," said Elynn Cunningham, assistant principal at Kingsley School, which is one of several Downers Grove elementary schools to end the year with a Clap-Out. "It makes the sixth-graders feel good and allows the other students to honor them, cheer them on and say good-bye."
Highland School Principal Judy Kmak said her school started observing the tradition in 1995 at a teacher's suggestion. "It's one of the traditions I've brought with me from another district."
Whittier School this morning changed the observance only slightly due to the heavy rain. "This is the first Clap-In we've had since I became principal seven years ago," said Linda Welch. The sixth-graders wound through the hallways to the gym instead of exiting the building as usual.
Pierce Downer School also has held Clap-Outs for years. My son's sixth-grade class, in 2004, was the second or the third to be clapped out. His sister was clapped out in turn four years later.
And I was there with camera and Kleenex, like so many Downers Grove moms and dads this morning.