This has been a nice couple of days away. Jonnie Sue and I traveled to Montpelier, Vermont, last Friday in order to be at the graduation of one of our granddaughters from the New England Culinary Institute. Jonnie Sue was in Augusta, Maine, a month earlier for the graduation of one of our grandsons, the NECI grad’s brother, from the University of Maine. Between the two, we were in Little Washington, Virginia, for the graduation of another granddaughter from high school. At the NECI graduation, one of the speakers, a faculty member there for 22 years, said that she never tired of graduations; that they validated all the effort and caring that the teachers put into making the students what they had become. I thought that was a great way to view it, that the graduates had not just learned to do something; they had become something.
It is a wonderful thing that teachers do, in every walk of life and at all levels of formality, from short on-the-job training in specific tasks, to medical specialization. They literally transform people into something they were not by showing how to do something they could not, such as saying one’s ABC’s, or flying a fighter plane in combat, or filling a cavity in a tooth, or defending a client before a judge and jury, or welding a joint in an oil pipeline or a seam in a fuel storage tank. Before there is an instance of a successful accomplishment, there is someone showing how. It is another of those miraculous processes that we take for granted because it is going on all around us all the time.
The graduations were wonderful for us also, to see the culmination of the years of effort; the successful completion of a task undertaken years earlier; the validation of the choices made by the graduates when they first indicated their fields of interest, choices which emerged from something within them and which we could not have guessed. I found myself recalling, but without much specificity, I’m afraid, thoughts from Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” and the song by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young “Teach your children well.”
Of course, these reflections on the meaning of it all are the province of grandparents. The graduates themselves are moving swiftly on to the next milestones in their lives, enrolling in the University of Maryland, getting started in a career, and finding a mate. They seem to not be looking back at all, and rightly so.
So let us then all praise graduations and the transformations they mark, signify, and honor, and especially all the teachers in our lives.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 18-June-2013