Why not...

My last of twenty-seven years in the secondary classroom, my baby just now in college, a government and economy looking like something out of Duck Soup, a pituitary tumor, chronic migraines... Hell, why not write a blog?

(My students are now gone. I'm now a civilian and really no longer a "lame duck." I hope the readers of Mama Duck will come to my new blog for some new writing and new directions. My new blog is at: Writing Isle to Isle.)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My last day of teaching

It’s 4:20 am of the last day I’ll have in my teaching career with students. There will be another week or so cleaning out my room, students dropping in, grading, creating files for the next teacher, but this is the last day I’m effectively and affectionately “Powell” or “Ms. Powell.” I’ve been that person for 27 years, and it’s been a good run. Today I’ll say some final words to my seniors. Give them some final words of hope and wisdom that I’ll no doubt garble with tears, some cookies I’ve baked, and some farewell hugs. I’ll watch them do the senior countdown at the end of the day. And although on Saturday my husband and I will be their faculty speakers at their graduation, today is the last day I’ll have a classroom filled with students discussing, questioning, listening, coping, sometimes whining about the amount of work, or laughing. I’ve ended my career with an extraordinary group of kids, the kind of class every teacher whose been around long enough knows comes through the system on rare cycles.

I’m drinking coffee right now because I awoke with a migraine. A God damn self-inflicted migraine. One that came from having one of the cookies I made for them last night. I knew better, but some how I still fall into magical thinking with these food triggers. Surely I wouldn’t get a migraine from a small cookie I prepared for the government classes of 2012, not on the last day of class. And this is after I’ve tried to teach critical thinking my entire career. After I’ve tried to move students away from the superstitious, the blind spots, the dark ends of the political spectrum. Perhaps this is one more example that I’ll share with them-- that lessons are really never truly learned. That we have to be vigilant even when we think we know something well, for that’s when something can walk up and clobber us upside the head—literally in my case.

What final advice will I leave my students today? I think this is what I’ll tell them today:

I’ve often left song lyrics with past classes before. One set I need to share with them is one from a song by Guy Clark,
“You got to sing like you don't need the money
Love like you'll never get hurt
You got to dance like nobody's watchin'
It's gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.”

I love this song Come from the Heart, by Guy Clark. He borrowed, I think, some basic lines from Twain or older writers and crafted them into a song. It’s packed with sage advice that goes back to the ancients.

First, dance like nobody’s watching. The truth is, they are. People can be judgmental as hell and it’s something you’ve cut your teeth on here at high school. While it gets better, as the public service ads say, you can never entirely rid yourselves of judgmental people. But you’ll hit an age where you no longer give a shit what people think of how you dance. You’re not there yet. I hope you hit it younger than I did. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Next, sing like you don’t need the money. The truth is, you will need the money, and choosing a path better include both your head and your heart. It’s no fun to struggle just to put food on the table or have a roof over your head. But likewise, don’t just become a cog in a joyless system. You’re all better than that. And you deserve better than that. Put your heads and your hearts into your choices. Sometimes that distance between the two is a long one, but as long as you keep them connected, you’ll be okay.

Next, love like you’ll never get hurt. News flash--You’re going to get hurt. You’re going to love and think you’ve found the absolutely most perfect match and you’ll pour yourself into that relationship and that person will gobble you up and spit out what’s left of you. You’ll end up wondering if you’re worthy of love.  You are. But mope for a while, then get pissed, then get strong, and always have friends and chocolate and good music. Eventually you’ll find someone who not only takes your breath away, someone you respect enormously. Someone whose values are in line with yours. That’s the person you build a life with. But do this after you’ve made enough mistakes that you know for sure “that is the one.” You need those mistakes to know. You’ll get better at spotting the mistakes earlier—they’re the ones that don’t make you feel good about yourself or find little ways to belittle you in front of others. Shun those. It’s going to hurt getting to that “one” but it’s worth it. I speak with experience on this.

The core message of this song is about passion. Be passionate. Care deeply. Care deeply about your friends, your family, your work, your community, your country, and your world. Don’t spend your life in perpetual ambivalence. You won’t have the energy to put time into all of those at once, because life also requires balance. Passion isn’t about doing it all. Passion is about caring enough to do it well. If you’re saving the world and a stranger to your own family, you’d better stop and introduce yourself to your family first.

I finally offer you the usual advice: get an education and be a student of the world as well. No one is truly educated unless they’ve traveled. Go see the world. There are many ways to do it. Go work in the place. You don’t have to have a fortune to travel, just the ability to smile and want to learn another’s ways. And, if you don’t have common sense when you go, traveling will by God force it on you.

Also, don’t drink and drive, brush your teeth no matter how drunk you are, and be kind to animals. I’ll have other things to say at graduation. But for now, know you’re loved and keep me posted on your lives. You know where I’ll be.
Hey, I’m on Facebook, and now that you’re graduated, it’s cool to friend me.
 I am so honored to have been your teacher. I look forward to now being your friend.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. You are a bright light on this planet Earth. Thank you for this lovely rich tonic of a launch. I'm gulping it down and I promise - no driving for me today. Hats off to you, Mama Duck! BRAVA!!!!!