A little rain, a lot of pride

Growing up. Graduating. What, exactly, does it all mean? Is it only symbolic? Does it simply mean you got older, know more math, understand thesis statements and animal cell structures a little better than you did four years ago? I hope not.

Last night I watched you, the Duncan High School class of 2013, take your positions at either end of the track. I watched you laugh with each other, straighten your caps, zip up your gowns, whisper in each others’ ears. I saw you look up into the stands and smile when someone called your name.

At the same time, I watched dark, ominous clouds move toward us from the southwest, full of some kind of joke. I heard those around me, your families and friends, speak of getting on with it. Our watches taunted us with eight minutes to go as we watched your senior sponsors in their matching senior T-shirts confer with administrators. The winds picked up, and your lines got out of line. What was going through your collective minds?

The band began to play – apparently a decision had been made – and you began to move toward your counterparts at the other end of the track, perhaps a little more quickly than you had rehearsed. It was hard for me to tell, but I was wondering. By the time graduates had filed into the third row of seating, the rain came. You walked on for a minute or so, until it was apparent those clouds meant business. When Mr. Reed went to the mic and said “Move it to the auditorium,” most of you kept moving to your original destination. The crowds in the stands, however, began leaving their seats – well, most of them. I remained planted. I knew you wanted an outside graduation.

Just as suddenly as it had started, the rain stopped, and we all laughed. The clouds actually seemed to move out of our way, and something was said to the effect of “let’s go ahead, then.” You kept walking.  The band started up again. I whoop-whooped. Thought for a moment I was at a football game and we’d just made a game-changing play. We were back on the board.

Even as the rain came again, slowed again, and you had doubts, you kept going.  We got a little wet. We worried a little when that big speaker started making those pop-pop, sizzling noises. But you went on and did what you were there to do.

That’s trouble-shooting, kids. That’s making decisions on the fly. That’s hitting obstacles that will surely be in your path as you meet life head-on, just as your classmate Jack said, and you have to figure out whether to go around it, over it or through it and how. Yes, you did it as a group, but you will do it time and time again as individuals. That’s where I see the growth.

When some of you landed in my English classes as freshmen and we began a literature unit, we would read for a bit, discuss a particular scene and then you were to record some answer on your study guide. I would inevitably get the question, “what do you want us to put down?” That question always frustrates me. “We just discussed it. Put down in your own words what you got out of the discussion.” Younger students always seem to have trouble with this because they seem to think there is ONE correct answer. I think growing up is learning that there are many correct answers. There are also many answers that turn out not to be correct so much as they turn out to be fantastic learning experiences.

On the last press deadline this year for the Demon Pitchfork – and I hope my newsies don’t mind my sharing this – the staff ran into an obstacle. I do share this, not to illustrate any incompetence on their part, but to demonstrate their competence, their ability to troubleshoot and fix a problem on their own. As they were going over the final PDF pages, preparing to send them to the publisher for printing, a full 15 minutes ahead of schedule, they realized a page was missing. The May issue is twice the size of previous issues because of the special senior section, and the numbering of the pages had been thrown off in their race to get all that copy from peers typed, edited and placed, in addition to their regular content. A page was missing; therefore there was no content for that page. They didn’t once ask me what to do, though I did make a suggestion or two, which, in the end were not used. They put their heads together, discussed options, divided tasks and got to work. I ordered pizza.

That is the difference four years can make. That is why you are graduating. That is why you are ready to move on to the next part of your lives. That is why I am proud of you.

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About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

One Response to A little rain, a lot of pride

  1. Pingback: Challenged | teachjournalism

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