Graduation 2021: Love and Stories
Every year, I complete the final assignment that I give my seniors. I ask them to talk about how it feels to graduate, what they've learned, and what they want for themselves and the world. Our topic this year was love. Here is the text and the video essay:
Well, it’s almost over. Somehow, we managed to get through this year. We worked together and apart. This is a summer break we deserve more than all the others. At graduation this year, I know there will be many things that you’d like to forget and many things that will stick with you forever. But if I think about what I learned this year, what I managed to scrap together from the pieces of my existence in and out of school, I think about all the important work that needs to be done in our world and country. At times, it seemed like when we were studying Things Fall Apart, that things would actually fall apart.
But they didn’t. Why? Because of love. Because we sacrificed and did the thing we didn’t want to do. We stayed home, wore masks in public, washed our hands countless times, got vaccinated, cancelled our flights and met with our families in a virtual world instead of a real one. We had to imagine that when we went online, that we were actually there, talking, laughing, crying.
Scientists worked tirelessly for us, and essential workers, despite the risks, kept the wheels spinning. Parents found creative ways to keep their children entertained, and we discovered hidden spots in nature to first escape reality and then to immerse ourselves in it. On top off all this, we watched injustice from behind a screen and millions of people went out to do something about it.
Love made it all possible. This year, we heard so many stories of love and all the different forms it takes. We defined it in many different ways and many different contexts. Literature allows a reader to cross consciousnesses and explores the ways that multiple consciousnesses become one. Words are maps that give us a bird’s eye view of everything. But in reality, when we love someone, we can simply look at them and know what’s going on inside their head.
When we love someone, in a way, we become them. We know them so well that we can feel what they feel, even if it’s only for a moment. We can even connect with strangers and find ways to see the similarities between ourselves and someone who might dress differently, have a different sounding name, worship in a different place, wear different clothes, have a different gender or a different culture, education, or upbringing. Love makes us realize that these differences only highlight or adorn who we all are and what makes us, us: our laughter, our tears, our suffering, our joy, and our relentless pursuit of greatness.
This love that we have for each other moves us forward. No matter what sets us back as individuals, as a country, as a world, we long to do better. We are grateful for what we have, but we have a grand vision for a world that’s better than the one we inherited.
Day after day we all add another tiny brush stroke to the wonderful portrait of reality. We forget or leave out necessary brushstrokes and stories and fill them in later with our imagination. We make mistakes and then spend time covering them up so they remain buried under the paint. We might not always see eye to eye on the final product, but the canvas grows larger and more beautiful with every new color. Some of us like to sit back and watch the image unfold before our eyes, and some like to engage in the messiness of doing the real work. But the portrait of us is up to ourselves, we control it. So pick up your brush, mix your colors, and get in there.
English language arts teacher
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers