Graduation by Littles

Abraham Lincoln said he got his education “by littles” –  a week here and a month there. He never graduated from anything. Well, the Class of 2020 has put in a good solid 13 years or more and are now graduating by littles. A little here and a little there.

We started the celebrations in our house today. The seniors were officially finished on May first. However, if you were taking any AP classes there was still work to be done as the exams had to be pushed back to May 11-22 so the College Board could plan at-home exams. Also Katy was in the staff of the literary magazine and they still had their last issue to put out. Plus orchestra leadership had some things to wrap up. But today she took her last AP exam and she is finished! She came out of her room and said “I love a math test that doesn’t have any math”. It was statistics, I don’t know what was on the test.

I set up a little family celebration while she was in her room testing but you can’t surprise Katy with anything. When I made an unscheduled trip to Kroger she guessed I must be getting a cake. Then she had a break in the test and came out into the hall to tell me something and could see stuff on the table. Well, I tried having a surprise.

And the cake is spelled right!

Then I had to keep Buddy away from the table until Katy was finished.

I wrapped up a couple of things she was going to get for college anyway and family sent some cards and gifts to help make the celebration special.

My dad’s sister made this beautiful notebook cover. Thanks Aunt Bekki! She also made a neat pin cushion/thread catcher for Katy sewing. I couldn’t figure out how it worked at first.

You put your pins in the cushion part and your little snips of thread in the basket part. Pretty clever.

A special shout out to cousin Hanneke who is clearly Huked on Fonix but whose handwriting is more legible than many adults.

Seriously, though, thanks Nimet for rounding up your crew to sign a card and encourage Katy. Katy especially liked the fancy envelope and sticker.

Thank also to Auntie Lee and Uncle Chip and Aunt Patty Carol and Gary for your thoughtful and generous gifts, too.

We didn’t make any big speeches. Maybe we’ll do that later. Or not. But I wanted to share this email from Katy’s AP physics teacher who has gone above and beyond during this time. All of her teachers have been great, but Mr. Smith has been so encouraging and uplifting.

Hello all, for the last time.

I want to thank you all for a great year, I won’t qualify it with “given the circumstances”.  It was a good year, I have enjoyed working with all of you and I will miss you.  The time has come for you to move on, as it should.  Again, I don’t want to dwell on the fact that its not the traditional way because my hope and dream for all of you is that there are much better things on the horizon anyways.

Before you go, I have one final note of encouragement.

I’ve consulted all the great texts (the internet) and tomes (youtube) and come to a conclusion: as a commencement speaker you can either be deeply thoughtful, funny or encouraging.  Since this is as close as I get to being a commencement speaker, I’ll do what I always do: try to get all three done and miss it by 30″ as the bell rings.  So, the deeply thoughtful, encouraging advice I have for the class of 2020 (with jokes).

1. Hard work pays off.  People notice others that work hard.  They notice that they are willing to work and sacrifice for something.  Some troll because they aren’t, others “game recognize game”.  It’s not a paved road just because you work more or longer, its still hard, but you will be there no matter what because its worth it to you.

The assumption here is that its good work too.  But, sometimes you make mistakes.  No one should fault you for doing your best, mistakes happen.  If that’s not the case, maybe its not a good place for you.

The hard part is recognizing what you TRULY want to work hard for and not what others want (for you or for themselves.)  That could take you a lot of years and several careers, that’s ok.  Those aren’t mistakes, that’s learning.  Maybe, you’ll end up teaching physics to kids.  If you do, call me (I got lots more “advice”.)  Either way, work hard and be genuine and good will find you.

2.  Have fun.  Enjoy the process.  It’s a simple idea.  Done, right?  Running is a simple idea too.  It’s the execution of the idea that really gets you right in the chest.   No, wait, that’s probably asthma.  The idea of running is important here, though.  Life is not something you compete with, you can’t win life.  Try not to think of it as an opposing team that either beats you or you beat it… because if you do, you are giving yourself a binary choice (I win or I lose,) and it sets you up to wait for the eventual loss.  It sets up others as winning more or less in life than you.

Instead, think of life as a path you run on.  Sometimes its paved (ahh, youth), sometimes its slippery and we fall (but Alfred taught Bruce Wayne “that’s why we get back up!”).  Eventually, if you run long enough, you find a hill, some are steeper than others, but eventually you will go back downhill too.  Your will find your idea of how steep a hill is, is “relative”.  Sometimes you turn down a bad path, maybe you have to stop and ask for directions, and sometimes it takes awhile to get back to a good one.  Such is life.

After you run for long enough, you realize that the running isn’t what makes it worthwhile, its the people you run with.  You started running together 4 years ago,  most of you are now going to take different paths, enjoy the time you have had to run with each other, look forward to new running partners.  Be on the lookout for the lifelong running partner, they’re the best.

Man, that got deep.

3.  Worry about what is in your control, learn to let go what is not.  In all the years I have been teaching, the biggest creator of “friction” for students is the idea of control (or the perceived lack of it.)  When people don’t feel like they have a choice, it puts them in a corner (and nobody puts Baby in the corner!)  When you feel upset, anxious or out of control, step back and think about what is causing that and what you really have the ability to control, then make a venn diagram.  If the two things don’t overlap, your are worrying about something you don’t have the power to change at the moment.

For example:  I have to go to this school, if I don’t my life will be over.”

Lets break this down:
What is in your control – the classes you take, how hard you work (see No. 1)
What is not: admissions personnel for that year, covid 19, who else applies
Will your life be over: no, maybe it will be better because you found your own path?  (See No. 2)

Class of 2020, I will miss you.  Remember that you are great, and don’t worry that you aren’t (See No. 3).  Just remember things that make you great, and do your best to get better at the things that you aren’t good at.  Don’t try to run anyone else’s path, or try to keep up with people that don’t have genuine interest in your path.

And should your path ever lead you back, you know where my room is.
All the best,




2 thoughts on “Graduation by Littles

  1. Yay!! So glad she is D O N E dun!!! I hope she can make good use of the items sent. I’m still new to the embroidery stuff but sewing…I think I have that down pretty good. I hope one day I will have the chance to teach Katy some stuff…but she knows quite bit already. Wishing her all the best !!!

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