Graduation Video Essay: The Class of 2020
At the end of every year, I ask students to create a video essay where they reflect on graduation and other topics, like creativity, education, and the future. I show some model videos from over the years, but I always create one myself to get started. Here is the video and here is the text to my video essay about the class of 2020:
The class of 2020. I’m just going to let that sit there. So many thoughts and feelings rush though me when I think of this class and I think of this time right now. Never before has it been so difficult to answer the question: How does it feel to graduate? or my other question for this assignment, What does it mean to be creative? How do we find solutions to the world’s problems? Well, first, graduation feels strange, distant, or that word we’ve come to use more often, remote. Remote learning. What a sad expression. Learning is anything but remote. Learning, in its finest form, is closeness. It’s the wisdom we gain from closeness. From relationships. From embarrassment. From experience. From seeing each other, like really seeing each other. The slight movements, the half smiles, the noises we make when we react to each other. When I see people wearing masks, I think about that a lot. It’s the problem Virginia Woolf tried to solve. How can we really see each other? Read each other? After my son was born, we had to wear a mask in the hospital. It made me realize that a hospital is the most important place in the world to show your facial expression. A smile communicates so much to everyone around us. It means, I’m ok. It means, I appreciate that. It means, how crazy. As I watch our world leaders scramble to make sense of this moment, I too, scramble to make sense of this year. If there’s one thing I love about teaching, and teaching seniors, it’s the spring. It’s the time when we can relax, get to know each other, and discuss how we’re going to change the world. Maybe change it in large ways, but mostly in small ways. Like Wordsworth said with “little, nameless, unremembered, acts … of kindness and of love”. There’s this window at the hospital, I don’t know if you can see it, but it has the word “love” in the window. This is going to sound weird, but the thing I’ll remember the most this year, actually didn’t happen in class. It was the favorite song assignment, where everyone shared a link to their favorite song of all time. There was a day during spring that I was just, sad. So I started playing music, and this song came on, and I just felt so much better. So when I started going through the songs that everyone posted, I cranked them up. That’s actually all I did for one day. I listened to everyone’s songs. I danced around the house with my daughters, and I pushed repeat a bunch of times, because I wanted to make sure I really heard the song. I was blown away. They rocked my face off. I felt connected to everyone again, and it made me very happy. This was the year that we stopped having classroom discussions and instead uploaded 10-minute audio recordings of why Pip loved Estella or why Gogol and Moushumi got married. Why does Pip love Estella? Why does Gogol love Moushumi? Ugh, it just makes no sense. Anyway, if I learned one thing this year, it actually wasn’t about creativity at all, it was about being grateful for the good. Take this frog, for instance. Every time I play with my daughters in my front yard, I think, I need to help that frog. But I never do. They’re always putting him in random spots, like the empty flower pot or hidden inside a bush or tree. So one quarantine day, I thought, frog, now’s your time. I brought him in and painted him with my daughters. My oldest named him Theo, which she said is spelled “n-i-n-i”. I’ll cut her a break on the spelling, but only because she’s 4. Theo will always be a symbol of this time. If one good thing came out of this, it’s Theo. He’s got a brand-new coat of paint. So when you graduate, whenever or wherever you graduate, think of Theo. He’s got a brand-new coat of paint. So I guess that’s it. From now on, when I think of creativity, education, wisdom, intelligence, and the future, I’ll think of a brand-new coat of paint.
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