Commencement. Commencing What?

Tomorrow my students are graduating with their B.Ed. There will be the usual big ceremony, the speeches, the dinner and so on and so on….. Each year over and over like a giant gristmill.

I’m happy with my students. So happy. Also very proud of this bunch of new teachers, they kept their idealism and passion all year and no doubt will bring this energy into teaching, into education. I’m so happy they are graduating. However, I’m not going to be there.

More and more, coming to the realization (for me) that graduation isn’t celebrating the right things. Rather, it is celebrating completions rather than beginnings. Or rather beginnings rather than continuings. It is all about “getting them out the door”. Schools and higher education especially, have become depersonalizing exercises and experiences. Big business. I’m generalizing of course, I know there are programs out there that keep more community after graduation than just sending an alumni donation request and a reunion appeal. I know there are schools out there who are more about fostering lifelong learning than making the time students spend there into a competitive 100m dash. I know. However, it’s summer and again I’m discontent, so I’m not going.

A few commencement addresses this season (yeah, it is a season, kind of like sports, a lifting of the cup and then it is a whole new go around) have tried to be honest about what school is. Michael Lewis stirred things up by bluntly telling graduates they were “lucky” and there (at Princeton) because of luck, not merit. David McCullough looked graduates straight in the eye and told them “you’re not special”. Hard realism and though it has good shock value, it is not the message I would give. I’ll let you guess what I’d do (if you’ve read this far) but it would be similar to the exhortation of my fav. graduation speech by Bill Cosby.

I’m not making much sense and now talking to myself, about why I’m not going to commencement. Usually the truest things are those you are least able to describe…….

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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