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Saturday, June 12, 2010

How do you want to be remembered?

Thursday I was able to get away from work for a few hours to attend my kids' fifth grade graduation. (Who schedules an event like this at 9:30 in the morning?! Are those of us who actually work for a living such a small minority around here?)

Since I was giving a final exam until 9:15, I got there with literally seconds to spare before the ceremony began. The graduation was in the school's gymnasium, and I didn't even bother trying to find a seat in the bleachers, because I basically would have had to walk in front of the action to do so. I was able to find a nice spot to stand in the wings, and I've never minded standing. (I pretty much do it all day anyway.) Shortly after I got there, a guy with a camcorder showed up and decided that smack in front of me was the perfect spot for him to shoot the entire ceremony from, so for most of the event, this was my view:

Anyway, I spend the week or two leading up to the graduation trying not to be too cynical about it in front of my kids. Seriously, though, why do we need to many graduations? Before my kids ever get to high school, they will have graduated three times from the very same school! Seriously: there was kindergarten graduation, now elementary school graduation, and in three years middle school graduation, but they go to a K-8! And I was annoyed at some of the expensive ways this was turning into a big deal. For instance, there was an expectation that the girls would wear a nice dress, but they have occasion to wear such a dress maybe once before they outgrow it. I couldn't see buying fancy dresses just for this.

They actually had nice dresses from last summer that they could just barely still squeeze into, but we were worried that the straps on them would be too thin for the school's dress code. They also had nice shoes, but they could not wear those because they were backless. This has been a tough few years for teachers in this state, with pay cuts, cuts in benefits, and rising prices on everything, so the idea of buying new things when we actually had stuff they could wear was doubly aggravating. Seriously, if you've decided this is such a big event that they need to dress up for it, then suspend the parts of your dress code that would rule out a lot of nice clothes. In the end, we went with the dresses they had, but we bought new shoes. We couldn't find any that were dressy and closed back and flat while still being a good fit, so we also had them wear bobby socks with them. I thought that would work fine, but I'm embarrassed to report that they're the only girls who wore socks. :-/

Rather than imitate a high school graduation to the hilt, they had each teacher introduce the kids in his or her class. As the kids crossed the stage, they were handed the microphone and they told the audience either one thing they were looking forward to in middle school or one thing they'd like to be remembered for. I thought that was a nice twist.

So as I stood there listening to kids giving their little soundbites and watching the head of the guy in front of me, I turned the question on myself. What would I like to be remembered for? (I'm not planning on going anywhere any time soon, but then, my kids aren't planning on leaving their school for three years either, so I guess the question is just as relevant to me as it is to them.)

I don't need to be remembered as talented or successful. I hope people remember me as generous and as hard-working. I think I am these things, but I often feel that other people don't notice it. I'm not necessarily showy in the things I do, so sometimes I work really hard on something and people assume it was easy, or sometimes my definition of generous doesn't seem to match that of other people. (For instance, as a teacher, I don't define generous as "giving everybody good grades." I define it in terms of generosity with my time and effort.)

So what about you, my three or four regular readers? What do you want to be remembered for?


Erik Slaine said...

It seems to me we would all like to be remembered a certain way, but what we are actually remembered for is impressed upon us by others.

Epic. Post.

Joe Iriarte said...

Heh. Can I tell you that about 40% of the kids want to be remembered as good friends, and about 40% as good students? I kept waiting for the teacher to snort and say, "Dream on, kid." :)