classroom teaching


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Margaret Edson(’83) 2008 Smith College Commencement Address


I finally graduated this Sunday, a day I honestly thought would never come, there were too many times when I considered dropping out, taking a year off, packing up and leaving. so that sunday, may 18th came, and i was allowed to sit in on commencement exercises, my name was in the booklet, and there was a diploma with my name on it, was amazing.

margaret edson’s commencement address started off slow, with almost too many dramatic pauses, probably given that she wrote Wit and is a kindergarten teacher.

Here’s an excerpt. from all the previous commencement speeches i’ve read, it definitely takes a fresh, different… and welcome approach.

We bring nothing into the classroom — perhaps a text or a specimen. We carry ourselves, and whatever we have to offer you is stored within our bodies. You bring nothing into the classroom — some gum, maybe a piece of paper and a pencil: nothing but yourselves, your breath, your bodies.

 Classroom teaching produces nothing. At the end of a class, we all get up and walk out. It’s as if we were never there. There’s nothing to point to, no monument, no document of our existence together.

   But the work you graduates have done was in the classroom with your teachers.
That’s the miracle of today.
Why don’t we talk about it?
Because it doesn’t show up.
There’s not a bar graph for classroom teaching. There’s no data for classroom teaching, and yet it persists this year and the next year and the year after that.

 But the reality that is neither shouting nor training is classroom teaching.
Nobody can touch it because nobody can point to it.
You have it forever.
When it grows inside you, it’s doing its work.


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