The end of the school year is enormously busy. And if one is retiring, activities are even further ramped up— including this year being asked by the student body to deliver the faculty address at 8th grade graduation. It is daunting to write such a speech. Yesterday was graduation. The following are the words I shared.
I am honored to have been invited to speak at this graduation. I welcome parents, faculty, and of course, you students without whom none of us would be here today.
I am filled with antimisochronism, flush with megapacificitude, and amazed at how the examples of bidomusdynamism and antibibliology reflect your intelligence and unimulticism.
I probably should explain. When we read Fahrenheit 451, we discovered that Bradbury invented some words. Words like contrasedative and upflailing – words that aren’t found in dictionaries but were crafted by him. Now Bradbury wasn’t the only author to create new words— Shakespeare was probably the most prolific. Most claim he invented some 1700 over his lifetime. So, it made sense that we too, learning some roots, prefixes and suffixes would create some new words ourselves. And so we did.
Some of your invented words organize the following thoughts—
The first word is misochronism, which, as defined by you is the hatred of time passing. In other words, fear of change. And there has been a lot of change in these three years filled with construction. In fact, you 8th graders have spent your entire middle school years framed by the construction in this school. The new facilities are awesome and demonstrate an impressive commitment to the arts. But in walking through the new buildings and renovated spaces, I have to admit there is a tiny part of me that suffers from a bit of misochronism. I miss the gargoyles. I miss Scammons. I miss the old wood molding. But in the fall when I attended an orchestra concert here in this space and again today here in Mandel Hall, I finally understand why it is so important to hold these events here. It feels so inspiring, so right, to walk into this beautiful, magnificent, ornate space, this historical space, surrounded by this glorious wallpaper and carved wood, sculpted symbols and portraits.
Yes, I know it’s a lot of schlepping but it feels like being here connects us to a deep and abiding tradition, to the many traditions on which Lab Schools has been built. It’s wonderful to be here. With the new spaces you 8th graders and your peers have an opportunity to create new traditions, new customs. But remember the old too without letting it weigh you down.
Transformation is meaningful when we stay connected to our whole story, the old and the new.
And 8th graders, do me a favor. Though I am truly an antimisochronist, please help the School find a visible place for those gargoyles.
Another word that one of you created is Megapacificitude. You defined it as creating lots of peace; always looking for resolution.
Whenever I give students a break during class or sometimes even before class begins, a group of you in my afternoon class play a game called Ninja. You stand in a circle or a loose circular clump and strike a stationary pose. One at a time you try to “attack” the next person’s hands while that person pulls away, at least one foot staying put in the same position. If a hand is touched, it is placed behind one’s back. When the other hand is touched in another round, that person is out.
It is a game of nuanced movement and when viewed by an outside observer, it looks more like a sequential T’ai Chi or Qigong as the movements pass from one player to the next. Its gracefulness and sometimes elegant awkwardness of movement is a mesmerizing dance of offense and dodging, of assault and evasion, of conflict and resolution. It is kinesthetic dialogue.
I mention this because sometimes in our discussions at the Around Table, when we are at our best, this same choreography happens—an idea is shared, someone disagrees gracefully and swipes at the idea with textual evidence, and then another tweaks that idea with another piece of text or asks a probing question, another makes a connection to different book or movie or current event and so on as it passes back and forth across the table —fluent, natural, alive, evoking eager response — you engaging, digging, searching. The ideas bouncing between you as your participation lunges, parries, repels, embraces, absorbs, and deflects.
We know it doesn’t happen so smoothly all the time, but when it does, and sometimes it does, even if just for a few moments, it is megapacificitude. This is the beauty of you making meaning in community.
There were many words you made that reflected the creative manipulation and integration of the knowledge you were gaining— for example:
Bidomusdynamism— the power of a two house government. Yes this word creation happened right after the mighty Constitution test. And antibibliology – against the study of books. Yes, Fahrenheit 451 society is definitely anti-book.
In the morning class, at the end of the Pullman debates this winter, after a long and lively discussion of the issues, Attorney General Olney ordered the federal troops to arrest Eugene Debs who resisted arrest. There was a bit of a tussle. One of the Pullman workers, clearly frustrated, walked around the room and began to overturn chairs. In the chaos that ensued, Jane Addams, completely in character albeit a bit anachronistically, jumped onto the table, got into a meditative pose, complete with hands in a specific mudra, closed her eyes and began to chant “Peace, Peace.”
You had totally and completely become your characters. This is just one of the many examples in one of your many classes from your many classes of the meaning you make when you authentically integrate information and make it totally your own.
And now, as you look toward high school, let me leave you with four words:
The first—– Be a Contraformagraphist
Which means one, who when given “ruled paper, write[s] the other way (Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451).
Remember —– You are under no obligation to follow convention.
Instead, follow your heart!
The second —— Be a Magnoptivoravivacosmoist
Which means one who “stuff[s] their eyes with wonder. One who lives as if they’d drop dead in ten seconds. One who sees the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories” (Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451).
Be open; take risks. Be curious; Be voracious for learning and living.
Thirdly ——– Be a Cardicrescicredadurist
Which means One who knows that “real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do” (Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird).
Whatever you do put your whole heart and soul into it; give it your all; work hard for what you believe in.
Be brave; be relentless and persevere.
Finally, let me leave you with the word unimulticism which one of you created and defined using the word Ubuntu—-I am because you are. We can make no meaning in isolation. We all need each other. I am because you are.
To my colleagues, I am because of your generosity of spirit, commitment, and passion. I am because of your creativity, honesty, patience, and guidance, your wisdom and challenge. These have been the best dozen years of my working life. I am because you are.
To the parents, I am because of your trust and support of me to work with your bright and spirited children. I am because you believe in the energy, history, traditions, and vision of this school. I am because you are.
To you 8th graders, I am because you have pushed my thinking, my abilities, my capacity to understand and to grow, yes and you have definitely pushed my knowledge of contemporary culture. You have made me excited to get up each and every morning (well, almost every morning) to create energy together around ideas and learning.
Thank you for making words; thank you for making meaning.
We are because you are.
All good things on your new journeys and adventures!