Today’s post is about High School Graduation, which is today. The whole year has been building to it, to a moment of almost Infinite Significance, at least in the minds of the young people. As I have observed it going along, it has been a time of profound nervousness and expectation, a feeling that Great Change is going to happen.
Yesterday, during lunch, a green haired young lady came in to my Edu-Dungeon, where we were playing Magic: The Gathering. She explained that she had never met me, and was merely a few percentage points away from passing senior English. That, in turn, was going to prevent her from participating in the Graduation Ceremony with her Class. This was Very Important to her, and wanted to have me negotiate with her English Teacher for the few percentage points needed for a D grade. We talked about it…since it seemed to me that she had to have known this was coming, and that there was ample opportunity to bring the grade up.
I asked why she came to me, a person she had never met. Apparently, her friends informed her that I “stick up for students,” and that I would probably do my best to see that things worked out fairly. I did make the stipulation that I would err on the side of fairness.
After school, we went to talk to the teacher. Suffice it to say that his reasons, and justification for the grade were solid. The grade was more than fair, in fact, grades were clearly trackable and posted on the wall…for the entire semester. The fact is…she didn’t earn the pass, and wanted to squeak by at the last moment. Maybe that was a life lesson, maybe it wasn’t.
I waffle back and forth on what the other teacher “should have” done. On the one hand…a fail is a fail. The system needs to be objective, and fair. On the other hand…a D is a crummy grade, and most colleges won’t look at a transcript with D’s on it. College acceptances are revoked for that kind of thing. As a result…it doesn’t really change this one girl’s future all that much if it is a D or an F. We teachers sometimes forget that…that the grades matter, sure…but not as much as we believe.
What’s the better lesson? Will this young lady change her ways as a result in not being able to participate in a coming of age milestone? Raise her own kids differently? I don’t have any kind of data set, so I can’t really predict in any credible sense which way it would fall.
It’s not ALL depressing. One of my Tenth Grade students is attending as my guest. She has a sister graduating, and her family is pretty large…so they were out of tickets. When I saw her upset in homeroom, I proposed the solution that I supervise, and she come as my Guest and/or assistant. If I had my own family, I could theoretically bring them to my school’s graduation, so it stands to reason that I can bring a young lady that I would be proud to have as my daughter. When I explained this, my student was a bit overwhelmed. I’ve said before…you just can’t replicate the feeling that it is to do something that’s just Right at that level…to know that in that moment, you’ve really impacted someone’s life. And really…it was with a small gesture, that I’m only too happy to do.
The whole year, mentally, I’ve been thinking of graduation the way that the school sells it to the students, as a moment of Infinite Significance. As a Life Changing Event. The art suggests that I’m taking a somewhat different, more whimsical view right now. It suggests correctly.
I’ve been speaking with students, signing yearbooks. They are nervous, some of them scared, some depressed. It’s NOT an intention driven process, with design, like a planned Pokemon “evolution.” It’s much more like the Inhumans’ Terrigenesis, which is why I depicted it with kids being suddenly doused by a Terrigen cloud. Already, I hear students being scared of the “Real World” and work, or worried about college, or disappointed that this moment doesn’t feel like “more.” They are afraid of who they are turning into, or worse…who they won’t be turning into. They don’t get the protagonist’s message, in page two, because no one has been telling them.
They just haven’t finished growing into themselves yet. This is a jump, a milestone, a checkpoint…but like the characters in Page Two, Panel One…they haven’t finished transforming yet. They are something new and wonderful and strange…but not something permanent yet, not something fully formed. They are simply entering into the next stage of their growth.
Some know it…some don’t. Some fear that they are being left behind, and some already have been.
It would be interesting, I think, to speak to them in a year….to speak to pretty much all of them. To find out what their experiences were, to ask how prepared they felt for the experiences after school. I don’t believe that education does that in any responsible, human sense. We simply send our young charges out into the wilds of work and college, and assume that we have given them the tools they need to thrive. Perhaps that’s really the point of High School Reunions…for the peer group to come together again, and take a somewhat informal analysis of how things turned out.
Very few of my students from this year are walking across the stage, entering dubiously into adulthood. I teach Tenth Grade, after all. I have a small number…a cadre of students who had to make up the credits for Tenth Grade English, after making mistakes earlier in High School. I think I have a somewhat deeper respect for them, than most. They worked hard, as young people, not yet adults, to atone for a mistake, instead of dropping out of school, or otherwise quitting. They sat in class, with underclassmen who knew they were making up the class, and comported themselves with discipline, and did hard work. To the last, they had actually become good students…perhaps because they had to work harder for it, and do it over.
I’ll be able to see them take their bow at the ceremony, and that seems like a pretty big deal to me. Add to that the awesomeness of being able to do a good turn for the young lady in my homeroom, who is apparently only too proud to be my guest…and I’m having a pretty good week.