Every year, I like to complete the final assignment I give to my seniors. I ask them to create a video essay that responds to the questions: How does it feel to graduate? What have you learned? What do you hope for? Here is my response or watch my video essay:
Graduation, it’s finally here. It seemed distant for a while, but suddenly here it is. Time to say goodbye. Time to start fresh. Like when you reboot a computer because it’s sluggish and going slow. It just needs to rearrange its parts and lock them back in place. Identity works that way. As time passes, the parts of us are the same, but we keep contributing new words, images, and ideas, we keep building on what we know and then do something different once it all clicks. Once it all comes together. This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the word indivisible. It’s in our pledge of allegiance, that daily routine that sometimes eludes us. It wants to remind us that even though we may be different, or disagree, we can still get along and unite under a common purpose. Technology makes it really easy to be mean, but it also makes it really easy to connect. So how can we connect? How can we come together and get stuff done? Sometimes we connect through art: television shows, movies, paintings, poems, and songs. In those cases, we connect using our imagination. The person is not there in the museum or our family room, but they are there in spirit because we experienced the same thing, the same image or character, for instance. Art is also in the news of the day, the news about people we don’t know, that we’ll never meet, but matter nonetheless. People try to twist and distort the facts of our reality, try to fit them into fanciful narratives that seem to create logic and order but in truth take away from the big picture. The news doesn’t always consider history and the history we’ve been taught is missing so much. Another way we connect, that we are indivisible, is through conversation, by looking and talking, which is the main way we feel what another person feels. Conversation is the main way we become deeply involved with the consciousness of another person, whether they are family, a close friend, a teammate, a coworker, or a stranger. These good, long conversations that happen in homes, in forests and valleys, on beaches and in restaurants make us indivisible. All the spaces of our lives remind us of our smallness in the vast, infinite cosmos. These conversations, these stories we tell, give life meaning. It’s these stories that move us to work together, to be on the same team, to want better. As I reflect on the story of this school and my family this year, I’m amazed at how much we’ve grown. My oldest daughter comes home from school with stories about Abe Lincoln: “Dad, do you know Abe Lincoln? He got shot! Do you know Martin Luther King? He got shot!” She talks to me about the Loch Ness monster and growing strawberries. This year we talked about Sethe, Lily, Saeed and Nadia, Hamlet, Okonkwo, Amir, and Little Chandler. We talked about discrimination, language, movies, religion, determinism, entanglement, justice, creativity, politics, war, the economy, and social media. You read, you listened, you watched, you talked, and you wrote. You made sense of what sometimes feels like a senseless world. I recently picked a bunch of strawberries from my garden with my kids. My daughter first said “Daddy, we’re farmers!” Then ten minutes later, she said “Daddy, farming is hard.” She’s right. Some things are hard, but we’re not going to let that stop us.
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers