“Don’t you dare get me anything for a retirement present!” said a dear colleague whose retirement celebration is today. Her family is taking a Really Wonderful Trip next month, and she says that experience (plus the time they’ll spend together) will mean more to her than any physical present ever could. But naturally enough, her friends ignored that request … mostly by getting gift cards, which don’t exactly count as anything and can be used for stuff she and her family actually want and need. “Remember,” said a Secret Email, “if you want to get her something, you can do that individually or as a department.”
We’ll be paying tribute to her long, successful career at a faculty lunch today. I promised the Relevant Folks that I’d try to say a few words, but I also warned them those words might come through tears. Connecting to friends and colleagues is important, after all, and disconnecting when the right time comes is important, too. And different people connect and disconnect in different ways, which makes it hard for factory-model systems with their penchant for the One Perfect Approach.
I hope my colleague won’t be too upset with the presents and cards she said she didn’t want! And I hope she won’t be too upset with the small amount of fuss we’re making to celebrate her years with us. Connecting and disconnecting are important for the person who leaves, but they’re also important, in different ways, for those who stay.
I was pleasantly surprised by my colleagues’ response to the Graduation Incident that partly inspired my post yesterday. As I thought about it, I realized that perhaps the young man was struggling with issues of connecting and disconnecting too. Perhaps he wanted to be remembered or to make a statement or something; perhaps he just got caught up in the excitement of the moment and wanted to stand out in the sea of identical caps and gowns. Maybe that was his way of disconnecting from an old, outdated label of “pretty good kid.” Who knows? In any case, I heard a lot more chortling than fussing as the news spread; colleagues with connections to That Particular School seemed to be particularly amused. “No perfect graduation for them!” my own daughter laughed when she found out. I wonder if the threats and promises from Various Powers (“No diploma for you! Never come here again!”) will prove to be true, or if the whole matter will quietly be dropped as, apparently, The Incident itself was dropped from the Official Graduation Video.
I wonder if the Young Man Involved thought about the Official Video … and if he did, I wonder if he thought he’d be immortalized that way. Even without the Official Video, of course, unofficial pictures have spread all over the place. I wonder how he’ll feel when (or if) he sees them years from now! Connecting people with their past is a lot easier now than it was in the pre-Internet age, and disconnecting from your past is harder than it was. But at the same time, when All The Stuff about everybody is readily available, will anybody actually bother to go looking for it?
How does memory work in an age when almost everything can be preserved … or altered or deleted? What are the implications for connecting and disconnecting when you can go back and watch it whenever you want … until suddenly it just isn’t there anymore?
If things work out as planned, I’ll see three former Latin Family members sometime today. T had contacted me a few days ago to ask for a recommendation for a scholarship, and she says she’ll be coming by with her fiance and her brother to pick it up this morning. It will be good to reconnect with them if there’s time! I have an invitation to a graduation party this evening, too; I’m not sure I can make it, but I hope to drop in and see L and his family for a few moments. Yesterday evening brought an unexpected phone conversation with someone involved with a Really Exciting Project. So it’s been a week of connecting and disconnecting for me, too … a goodway to bring this school year to its end.
“Why did this year go so fast?” K asked on the Last Day for Students. More Than One Ms. X and Mr. Y asked the same question. Maybe it was All The Snow, which eliminated some of the usual days off near the end of the year. Maybe it was All Those Changes … but despite Ms. X and Mr. Y’s moans and complaints, business went on pretty much as usual in most of their classes. Was it just that natural, but puzzling phenomenon that goes along with getting older? We talked about that at Book Group on Monday, all of us amazed by how quickly the time passes now, how slowly it crawled when we were younger and in a hurry.
At the end of Many A School Year, I’ve had too much to do and not enough time. Good Old Ms. M, used to need extra time to get everything finished, and so did Mr. P. At least one year I came back to join them after the Last Official Day. But this year everything seems to be done on schedule; there’s just one Traditional Task and that Special Lunch on the agenda for today.
Somehow, despite all the factory-structures, a school can become a community. Sometimes it can even become a joyful learning community, or a set of joyful learning communities, for a while despite all the Policies and Procedures and Important Stuff standing in the way. As we come to the end of another year, and as I look forward to an exciting but unknown future, I’ll cherish the opportunities for connecting as well as those for disconnecting. I wonder what other new insights and discoveries await in the days and weeks to come!