The first retirement didn’t quite take, I guess. At the beginning of the year, I subbed an entire quarter for a great group of kids at Fremd HS, my home for the last 31 years. And on Friday, I finished a 12-week stint at a new school, Lake Park HS. New to me. Different culture, different rules, but not much different. Another great group of students.
Then I might have mentioned another book I was perusing this weekend, the photos of Vivian Maier, whom I’ve mentioned before. (Look her up; hers is an amazing story.) She has a series of photos of pedestrians in downtown Chicago, and it’s remarkable how many of them are reading the newspaper. I might have asked students if there’s anything they do today that binds them together like a newspaper once did. And I might ask them, What if Maier took photos of them, now, what would they one day look back on and miss? And all this would have related perhaps to the discussion about their future selves.
None of this, by the way, would relate to the lesson of the day, to the material that would help them pass the exalted A.P. exam in May. But we would get to the lesson. We really would. But those first few minutes, in my estimation, would be just as important. Maybe more so.
On their last study guide, I added an open letter to students because I usually find myself at a loss for words on the final day. Here’s the letter, which I hope offers a glimpse of their spirit:
I’ve enjoyed our time together. When people ask me about “young people today,” they expect me to say you’re spoiled or distracted or lazy. But I don’t see much of that. (Okay, maybe a little. And put those stupid cell phones away.) To the contrary, what I see is this: generosity, kindness, ambition, intelligence, wit, optimism. In fact, you are so determined to forge a solid future for yourselves, maybe because you have been handed such a mess (sorry), that you will endure inhumane school schedules and dutifully oblige test after test thrown in your direction with little complaint. I think a little complaining is in order.
I’m not going to give you any advice, because you probably wouldn’t listen anyway. But here is my hope. I hope you will find a way to temper your ambition and drive in such a way that you achieve your goals but still have time to enjoy today. Because today is pretty darn good. Today is yours.
I won’t be able to check your AP scores, but I’d like to know how you did. If you feel inclined, email me an update this summer. Or if you’d like to read my updates on the state of the world, a very skewed view, you can read my blog at tonyromanoauthor.com.
Be good. Do good.