I’m finding that the longer I teach, the more sentimental I get about my students, especially in this month when a whole group of seniors will be leaving. Nearing the end of my career has perhaps made me more acutely aware of new beginnings that await each year’s graduates.
I’m also discovering, at this advanced stage of things, that I’ve become a little more preachy, or more charitably, more intent on imparting some last few words of wisdom. Spending an hour a day with a group of kids for nine months gives me a certain entitlement in that area, so I say to this year’s graduates, here are those few words:
We teachers have done our work, and now it is up to you to see beyond the lessons we taught and the knowledge we tried to convey and move forward with some measure of confidence, or faith if you will, that you are ready to forge ahead out of your adolescence and into a world of adults.
See beyond all of the facts and figures, and realize that there is a bigger picture. I know we’ve given you a mixed message over the years, telling you that on the one hand bubbling in correct answers on standardized tests was the culmination of your learning experience, and then on the other, stressing that the greater value of education is intangible, immeasurable.
We have indeed stressed the basics, but not for any intrinsic value they may have. They are tools to lead you to a better understanding of the nature of things, to aid you in your quest for truth, to help you master a trade — you get the idea.
“See beyond rules and regulations.”
They are there mostly to keep us from hurting each other, but they’re not all etched in stone. By all means, question authority and defy convention, but recognize also that there are limitations. You’re all on the verge of adulthood and will soon lose the protective shield of “minor.” If your intentions are to upset the established order, my suggestion is that you be very clear in your purpose. No more rebel without a cause — that was an indulgence of your adolescence.
“See beyond parental restrictions and reprimands, and know that all they’ve ever wanted was the best for you.”
Know also that it in a flash of time you will be in their place with children of your own.
“See beyond the ‘enemies’ in your life and all the bad things you think they’ve done.”
Make a habit of forgiving others now while you are still young and spare yourself a great deal of heartache and bitterness that are the natural byproducts of a vengeful mind.
“See beyond your present comfortable and cozy little world and recognize that this planet came with a set of operating instructions, which we seem to have misplaced.”
Don’t be put off by people who are certain that the task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible after you are done.
Perhaps you have not yet realized it, but you are brilliant, and Earth is hiring.
Presently we have hundreds of thousands of abandoned homes and hundreds of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have bankrupt bankers who are being advised by failed regulators; we have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy Earth in real time than to renew, restore and sustain it.
“See beyond the quick profit and all who live for the now with no regard for later consequences.”
We need people in charge who are more intent on healing the future than stealing from it. The generations before you have pretty much made a mess of things, and you need to see beyond their failures. Common sense dictates that you draw up some new plans and replace some old leaders. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.
DAN KIMBER is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@ sbcglobal.net.