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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

Graduation Tears Guaranteed

By Allan Shedlin

Grampsy and Founder, DCG and Daddying Film Festival & Forum (D3F)

Celebrating granddaughter Casey's graduate degree in Social Work from UNC

As I fly back from my oldest grandchild’s graduation from social work school, I’m filled with a density of emotions. The kind that warms my heart, loosens my tear ducts, and releases a unique pride reserved for these kinds of milestones.

As a lifelong educator, as well as a dad and granddad, I’ve attended and presided over more than my fair share of graduations.

With my grandson Ben at his nursery school graduation, 2005

I never know precisely the feelings that will sweep over me as it somewhat depends on whether I’m a celebrant or celebrator. But I know for sure that the emotions will always be profound, and I welcome their density – more often than not, they trigger tears and memories of graduations past.

The two words most often used to refer to this rite of passage are graduation and commencement. One is usually associated with endings, the other with beginnings. And both feel appropriate. Thus, when my granddaughter, Casey, exclaimed with obvious and well-earned relief, “I'm not a student anymore!,” it gave rise to our discussion that while she may no longer be going to traditional classes, she will always be a student in the fullest sense of that word.

This graduation, like all others, comes at a unique historical moment by definition. We are living during a time when the world feels on edge as it spins less steadily on its axis; meanness seems to trump kindness; hatred seems to trump love; violence seems to trump peace; irrationality seems to trump reason. Indeed, and alas, Thomas Paine’s 1776 words in The American Crisis, could aptly describe this moment: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” But we could change the title now to The Global Crisis.

And so, in this moment of global stress I found myself looking at and listening to these social work school graduates and remembering a younger granddaughter’s graduation from her school of education last May, feeling a sense of hope in the future – perhaps reclaiming and reaffirming a time when we reverse the current slide, when our humanity may once again trump our inhumanity.

And so, with tears in my eyes, I was able to toast this most recent family graduate and to thank her for allowing her light to shine brightly during this rather dark moment in history.

And, as the treetops got increasingly closer as my plane came in for a smooth landing, smoother landings seemed possible.

* * *


With Casey and my younger granddaughter Jesse

Allan Shedlin has devoted his life's work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, five grandchildren, as well as numerous "bonus" sons/daughters and grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, school leadership, parenting coaching, policy development, and advising at the local, state, and national levels. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019, he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He has conducted daddying workshops in such diverse settings as Native American pueblos, veterans groups, nursery schools, penitentiaries, Head Start centers, corporate boardrooms, and various elementary schools, signifying the widespread interest in men in becoming the best possible dad. In 2022, Allan founded and co-directed the Daddying Film Festival & Forum to enable students, dads, and other indie filmmakers to use film as a vehicle to communicate the importance of fathers or father figures in each others' lives. Allan earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D and GRAND D-A-D the most important “degrees” of all.


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