Friday, June 19, 2009

I'll Wait for You

I’ll try to get through this without crying; I expect you to do the same.

When I sit and consider what your class means to me, many memories float to the surface: All of us laughing in class (sometimes you with me, mostly you at me); the papers you wrote; the presentations you gave. Those are all there. But more precious to me are those moments outside of class, those times when we spoke, person to person, still teacher and student, but the lines blurred so it was hard to tell who was teaching and who was learning. The best moments for me involved discovering who you are and sharing a bit of myself beyond the Mr. Dalley persona that I enact in the classroom. When we went to retreat, my favorite times were spent sitting on my porch in rocking chairs with you and talking together or lounging on a bench in the sun and babbling about who-knows-what or playing the guitar while sitting in a circle of rocks or playing Ninja by the campfire. Those moments for me are much more real than anything that can happen in the constructed classroom setting.

I tell you the truth when I say that you have taught me more than I could ever hope to teach you. You have made me believe that the students at Whitney are the best in the world—not for your test scores but for the people that you are, for the care that you have for others, for the love that I see put into practice. You continue, day to day, to amaze me.

Whitney is a special place, unlike any other school. But do not be sad to leave this place; rather, be happy for what you’ve had here. And most of all, be excited for where you are headed.

I look out on your faces and I feel many different emotions at once: love and fear, pride and anxiety. But most of all I feel envy: I am envious of you for the amazing worlds you are about to enter. Be open to all kinds of new experiences as you go out into those places. As Cat Stevens sang, “Oh baby, baby, it’s a wild world.” The most intense envy I feel, however, is for those worlds that will receive you. I wish we at Whitney could keep you a little bit longer. It’s selfish, but one year with you was not enough for me.

Now I know what you’re thinking: All of this emotional mush from Dalley? Dalley, the cynic? Dalley, the man who does not believe in a soul? Dalley, the man without a heart?

Well, good for you: you got me. I have a heart, and it is you who made me put down my guard. I can’t help myself.

I was sitting in my classroom a few weeks ago and wrote this poem while thinking how much I’ll miss you guys. It’s called “The Gardener.”:

The one lesson

I try to teach

To my students

That I hope

They always remember:

Love what you do

And life will be easier.

I would say

It’s cliché

(And it may be),

But it’s also true.

This job of mine

Is never work.

I get paid

For the privilege

Of watching

Boys and girls

Secure their roots

And grow

Into men and women,

Wonderful trees

That will reach

Their branches

Out into the world.

I will miss you all

When you are gone.

But I will look for your leaves

Stretching toward the sun

On and on and on.

Thank you, class of 2009, for allowing me to grow along with you.

You are my soma, you are my center. Keep carrying the fire.

I will miss you.

Come back.

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