Since it was 41 years ago today that I graduated from high school, I’ve been walking down memory lane all afternoon. It’s the only exercise I’ve had all day.
I found the newspaper clipping with a few quotes from our commencement speech, given by a Dr. Paul Mori. One thing he said was,
“Enthusiasm is more important than professional skill.”
I think he must have both, because when I googled him, this is what I found:
Dr. Paul Mori Jr, MD is a radiology doctor who practices in Jacksonville, FL. He is 92 years old and has been practicing for 69 years.
That is just amazing to me! To find your calling and passion and stick with it for 69 years must take a whole lot of enthusiasm and commitment.
He also said:
“The single most important tool you have is the knowledge of the English language and the ability to communicate.”
I feel like I left high school with this tool dull and rusty. Over the years I have tried to sharpen it and use it so it would not stay rusty. I don’t think it was just me from my school, but many students in many schools in the seventies graduated without a lot of fundamentals. Today I can skillfully use verbs like google and tweet, but I wish that I’d been more like Napoleon Dynamite back then. I wish I’d followed my heart into journalism.
Instead, I headed off to college to major in marketing. Eventually, after four kids, I graduated with a degree in education and had the joy of sharing my knowledge of English with children. Now, however, I’ve come full circle, back to where my heart was my junior year. I write. I don’t do it for a living, but I do feel enlivened and purposeful when I’m writing.
I don’t remember Dr. Mori’s speech. But, I think we all went out into the the world that afternoon enthusiastically. Oh, to go back 41 years and grab some of that now!
Every spring when the jasmine blooms outside my door I close my eyes and I’m seventeen I hear Simon and Garfunkel Blowing through the jasmine in my mind The world is full of promise And unrequited love A small gust blows me out of my reverie But that jasmine Makes me feel fine
“I’m a teacher, but they won’t let me teach – not the way I can. It’s just not worth it.” – Miss Shaw, the Wonder Years, Season 5
I recently binge watched the entire Wonder Years series. I’d say I teared up during about 80% of the episodes. But, I must reveal that Kevin, the main character, was just two years my senior. I’m talking the character, not the actor. So, all that 70s stuff, all those family issues, the clothes, the culture – that was my world.
Instead of my teen-self, one episode got to the heart of my teacher-self. Miss Shaw was an unconventional teacher. She loved what she was doing and it showed. The kids knew it and her fire lit them up. I’m not saying I agreed with all her methods. But, when she said, “…they won’t let me teach – not the way I can”, I felt like she was speaking for so many other teachers. I recently talked to a teacher who is certified and experienced in one thing and has a desire for it, but she is being forced to teach something else. That’s just sad.
I’ve been in four different school systems in the past few years as a substitute and I’ve seen the mindless test prep and the daily wasted hours in “study hall’ where maybe on a good day five kids were studying. I’ve been in middle schools where seventh graders can’t write a lucid paragraph; in high schools where students spent more time “googling” an answer on their phones than it would have taken to read the article in front of them to find the answer.
I’m not saying there is no good teaching. I have come across pockets of creativity and solid math lessons; I have met some very caring teachers. It’s not usually the teachers, but it’s the system, the “they” that Miss Shaw referred to, that is killing education in our country. And every June, there are teachers who decide, like Miss Shaw, “it’s just not worth it.”
“…So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way…” – from Both Sides Now by Judy Collins
I’ve seen teaching from both sides now; as a full-time teacher and as a substitute. I wish I knew how to make a change.
One thing I find interesting about this cover to the program for my high school graduation is the picture of the Bible. I wonder how many public schools today would dare to put this on the cover? It says something about what was still looked at as being important in 1976. It was the year of our Bicentennial Celebration; the 200th birthday of our nation.
Our class song was “We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters.
Before the rising sun we fly So many roads to choose We start out walking And learn to run And yes! We’ve just begun
Now, 37 years later, there are still so many roads to choose. I may not be running, but I’m still going on.
Sharin’ horizons that are new to us Watchin’ the signs along the way Talkin’ it over just the two of us Workin’ together day to day, together
This verse can still be sung by my husband and I (well, HE can sing, I try). We have signs and changes on the horizon now. A pretty possible move is in our future. We still talk over everything. And work together. Yes, he folds towels and vacuums very well.
And when the evening comes we smile So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
We are not guaranteed “so much of life ahead”, but I am living as if there is. I have plans for my grandkids, things I want to do, places I want to go. But, I understand it is all in God’s hands.