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Ready to start

Yesterday the university held its first-ever Multicultural Stole Ceremony to recognize academic achievements of graduating students of color. The graduates will wear these over their shoulders outside their gowns at commencement today.

The program for the event read, in part, “Each graduate will select an individual who has played an instrumental role in his or her tenure at the university to present the stole.” Many of the students chose parents or other family members to present their stoles.

But Chernice Miller, winner of the Journalism School’s Woman of Promise award this year, chose me. During her many visits to my office to just chat over the past four years, I always would feel better than I had when she arrived, even if I had been in a good mood. She's one of my favorite people.

At the ceremony, when the individual presenters gave the 31 students their stoles on the Arts Center stage one at a time, the master of ceremonies read a couple of hundred words the recipients had written about the person they chose to present their stole. I was so overwhelmed by the moment that I can’t remember what Chernice wrote. All I remember was looking into her eyes and our huge hug at the end of it all.

I have spent the past week finally reaching peace with the idea that I’ll be retired as soon as I post final grades Monday morning. But yesterday was the peak accomplishment of my teaching career. As a colleague wrote in an email to me last night, “What a lovely note for you to leave on, that ceremony today. Even if you inspired no one but Chernice, and that’s clearly not true, that would have been enough to justify your efforts the last 15 years.”

Yesterday gave me permission to stop beating myself up for not doing better. I realized I have done my best. I have tried to nurture students and guide them, I’ve tried to show them how to learn, and, most of all, I’ve tried to help them believe in themselves as much as I believed in them.

I’m no longer going to lament leaving this part of my life behind. Sure, I’ll always have memories, but there’s other work to do now. I don’t know what it is, but I’m sure it’s there waiting for me.

Two weeks ago, I began my final radio show on the university’s student-run station with a song by Arcade Fire called “Ready to Start.” Two lines in the lyrics sum things up for me:

My mind is open wide
And now I'm ready to start


Yes, I am.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
e_d_young
May. 15th, 2016 02:29 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on your retirement, Mr. felixwas. And thank you for teaching the young people for 15 years. In my book, that is a contribution greater than putting on a military uniform.
patrick_vecchio
May. 15th, 2016 07:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It was a blessing and privilege to do what I've done for the past 15 years.
(Anonymous)
May. 15th, 2016 04:24 pm (UTC)
And to think you once blogged that you wondered if you made any difference in your students' lives....HERE'S YOUR SIGN!!!!!
-30- HOLIDAY
patrick_vecchio
May. 15th, 2016 07:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Nick. I've been blessed for the past 15 years. Now it's time to start amassing the world's largest collection of Godzilla movies.
song_of_copper
May. 16th, 2016 07:20 am (UTC)
Congratulations to you and to Chernice! What a very wonderful meeting of minds.
patrick_vecchio
May. 17th, 2016 01:00 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! That was the final university function I attended as a faculty member, and it was the highlight of my 15 years at the university. It was such an honor.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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