Archive for the ‘graduation’ Category

The beautiful changes

It’s kind of amazing that Richard Wilbur is 96 years old. (A collection of his poems furnishes me with this post’s title.) Just before the AP, my students and I read his 1949 poem “Juggler,” which was the subject of last year’s AP Lit exam’s poetry analysis essay.  I don’t have anything to say about it except that we were all struck by how weary it sounds for having been written by a 28-year-old man.  (Not that a 28-year-old man can’t or shouldn’t feel weary, in 1949 or at any other time.)

I’m creeping back to the blog today because I feel the need of it, need to get my mind around this time of year again. I was out of town for some of the holiday weekend, returned Sunday night, haven’t done much today, Memorial Day, except some grocery shopping and putting in an appearance at a cousin’s graduation party.  There’s a lot to do, schoolwise and lifewise, but there’s also a sense of loosening–the regular schedules are dissolving, with a couple of special days for review before exams begin, and then exams, and the last rushed day of farewells, one strange weekday without any school, and then graduation. A final day of meetings, and then we’re launched into summer, except for the long tail of the school year.

Maybe now is the time for one of those summer charts?  I have been feeling a bit stuck on what I need to do now, but maybe some looking forward will help me unstick?


That’s about how many more days until we start exams.  The school year will be over in roughly a month.  We’ve chosen the valedictorian and the recipients of year-end awards.  Some plans for next year have been made.

I applied for four summer writing residencies and didn’t get any of them.  Not a huge surprise, since competition is stiff, but I’m still disappointed.  So I’m making my own plans for a couple of different summer writing retreats–solitary, unhip and cheap, but I think I can give myself much of what I need.

Meanwhile, I’m endeavoring to touch work every day in May so that I can launch myself into a productive summer.

Ate that, what’s next?

shermanThe seam between the school year and summer is, once again, a jagged and lumpy one!  This week saw the last exams, the last class meetings, the last all-school assembly.  Today is the middle school graduation–which means we should stay off campus until the afternoon, unless we’re attending it–and tomorrow is the one for the high school.  Then, next week, meetings and tidying up the loose ends of the year and continuing plans for next year.

Back in November, I wrote that my feelings were a bit hurt by reading a Facebook comment by a senior boy: “nothing I do at Starfleet Academy matters anymore, I’m hardly learning anything (except in physics), and grades in particular don’t even matter now.”  What I probably should have added is that he had been one of the most engaged students I have ever met, a kid who took a very challenging program all through high school, played basketball, ran a wargaming society, and continued to read voraciously and take MOOCs just for fun. (He reads a lot of popular nonfiction; I remember a long discussion with him freshman year about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother–he’s Asian American–and more recently about the virtues and flaws of Malcolm Gladwell.)  And from my end-of-year perspective, I think that he was reacting to the sense that one milestone–filing all the college applications–had been reached, and he wasn’t sure what that was going to mean to him: an is that all there is? moment Anyway, he absolutely didn’t check out; he stayed engaged with everything, he wrote a dynamite senior paper in English that we’re nominating for a national award, and he just ran his valedictorian speech for me and it almost made me cry, he was so sincere and thoughtful and funny and deeply affectionate toward the school and his classmates.  I’ll remember his Facebook comment, though, because it seems to be a true representation of what even the most terrific senior might be feeling along about mid-November.  (And I will continue to try to avoid seeing Facebook comments by current students.)

So anyway, today.  It’s an odd feeling, after so many weeks of powering through teaching and grading and administrative stuff and hiring and planning for next year, to suddenly…stop.  Today is an odd pause.  I wouldn’t go in to campus at all, except I think I have to later because I left my rental regalia in its plastic packaging in a file cabinet drawer, on top of this year’s final exams, and I should make at least the usual token attempt at ironing it before graduation tomorrow.

I’m picking up the Snork Maiden and then having lunch with FLS, which I’m looking forward to so much!  (Among my summer plans are plans to socialize more, at least in the low-key and uncrowded ways I most prefer.  More about those, I’m sure, fairly soon.)


Fail better

I have Beckett’s quotation (“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better”) on the wall of my classroom.  (Perhaps you know the impressive literary magazine that is this passage’s namesake.)  I’ve also become a fan of Nerd Fitness, a charming fitness/life website where I get lots of reminders of how important it is to Fail More, Suck Less (that one’s for you, What Now?).

We seem to be at a cultural moment, if I may speak grandly, at which we are reminding ourselves of the importance of failure.  Today the New York Times reviews Henry Petroski’s To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure, which would be a great gift for a student headed off to study engineering.  And in Slate a couple of months ago, Timothy Noah reviewed a selection of 2012 commencement speakers and propsed an alternate list of people who really have something to tell students about coping with setbacks.

(Of course, the list of actual commencement speakers is also full of people who have survived failures–in some cases, rather large and public ones.  Have a look.)