Sunday, June 5, 2016

Letter to the Class of 2016

Woke up this morning and STILL was thinking about these 8th grade kids who just graduated. So naturally, I wrote them a letter and here it is.

Dear kids and parents,

“It’s all over but the shoutin’” someone once said and so one last shout out to close out the goodbyes to this most memorable class in this most memorable 50th year of the SF School. You were a great class to connect with this milestone moment in school history because you embodied the best of what the school has to offer—intelligence, imagination, humor, curiosity, kindness, caring, questioning, dynamic energy, support, risk, expression, spontaneity, discipline, all those lifeless nouns brought to life in your minds, bodies and hearts.

One final shout-out to all we did together this year—here’s to “Good morning, Mr. Goodkin,” to Juba and Soup, Soup and Steppin’, to the blues and I-IV-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-IV-I-I. the duet improvs in the blues pentatonic scale, to Pat in Bohemia while Dreaming of dancing with Jeannie at the Savoy, breaking it all down and then Picking up the Pieces, to Louise taking the Blues out of the Closet to find the Rainbow Connection in the Superstition about the pot of gold, to tying it all together with Blue Rondo a la Turk and also to Swaying with Soul Sauce with St. George and the sword dance while playing Stations.

Here’s to the sobering stories of the “blacks make it and the whites take it,” to Big Mama and Elvis, James Brown and the Beach Boys and the Beatles, Jimi and Eric Clapton all playin’ the blues, to the fabulous Nicholas Brothers and Bill Bojangles Robinson and Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, to Bird and Brubeck, to thanking the creators and also appreciating the imitators who brought something else to the conversation, to the American side of the hyphenated identities as America’s promise was realized on the bandstand.

Here’s to the triumph of those extraordinary lilies rising out of the swamps, to Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll and Louis and Billie and Ella and Duke and Fats Waller and Art Tatum and the many more we didn’t get to know but are waiting for you—Bird, Diz, Monk, Miles, Mingus, Coltrane all the way to Esperanza and Stefon and Wynton and Herbie and Chick.  Here’s to the bizarre minstrel shows and vaudeville and Broadway and Hollywood that led all the way from Singin’ in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz to Les Mis and High School Musical, Stormy Weather all the way. Here’s to San Diego and NAIS, to the Spring Concert and Shakespeare, to the Latino Heritage sharing, Haunted House, St. George play and 12 Days of Christmas cards, Winter all-school sing, MLK, Black History presentation. And “give me some love, people!” for that remarkable Sojourn trip, the hard, hard, stories, meeting Jimmy Webb and Minniejean Brown-Trickey and Simeon Wright, walking through MLK’s house and the Birmingham Church and the museums and memorials, watching the Warriors and sneaking out to the Waffle House. And then all the way to your glorious graduations. A 20-minute Bobby Kennedy standing ovation to all of it, to all the years before, to all the years to come, to all of you.

And to the parents. It goes without saying and yet I will say it: none of it could have happened without your continuous love, support, help and (let’s face it) money, those 5 am airport drop-offs and midnight airport pick-ups, that constant navigation through the treacherous waters of monitoring homework, juggling schedules, high school applications, organizing graduation parties, etc., etc. and yet again, etc., without your faith that your sacrifice and investment paid off as we teachers worked hard to know the miracle you created, to see, notice, reveal, cultivate and celebrate the deep character and unique genius of your son or daughter. To fulfill school’s promise to arm them with the ABC’s, 1-2-3’s and Do-Re-Mi’s needed to step forth onto both the battlefield and the lily-rich meadow of the life that awaits them, but also to fortify them with the Wizard-of-Oz gifts of courage, heart and intelligence.

In our more intimate days, we used to ceremonially acknowledge families that are leaving, some of whom we have known from 11 to 21 years, those familiar faces and changing cars at carpool, those familiar potluck dishes at the Corporation Meetings, those generous gifts at the Winter break. It doesn’t feel wholly right to not ritually acknowledge those separations and each year of the past 41 I’ve thought: “How can we go on without this family?” But of course we do and so do you and that’s the forward momentum of life that’s perpetually real and true. But a moment here to say out loud that I will remember you and miss you. Your involvement with a school community will probably never be the same—the 4 short years of high school demand both a different kind of involvement and a distance and college is just that place far away with an annual parent’s day, maybe one of which you will ever go to. So there it is, my little ceremonial marking to thank you for all the years.

Just the other month, I went to SF Jazz to hear Stefon Harris and ran into a school parent with two alums. That was a fine feeling! So whether it be at SF Jazz or the Opera or Carnaval or a gamelan concert or even the Waffle House with your earbuds in, I hope that James, Sofia and I might run into you as you enjoy the echoes of the music we set ringing in your ears. And do invite us to your concerts and plays and art shows! We want to keep track of your evolution!

Enough? This my final (for now) love letter to kids and parents who have given me so much hope for the future, so much happiness for the past, so much fun in each moment of the present we shared. Enjoy your summer and Go Warriors!!!



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