Crossing The Stage: 

A Final Graduation’s Circumstance  

I cried when I read his email. It was 4 a.m., I couldn’t sleep, so I grabbed my cell phone and starting clicking through my inbox. Forty two emails. The only one I chose to open was from a former student telling me he would not be attending the university’s graduation later that morning.

The last June

I began teaching journalism as an adjunct in 1996 when I was freshly divorced. I had a cinemactically romantic notion of what it meant to be a college professor. I thought the whole enterprise was simple. Frankly, I thought it would be a piece of cake. Delicious cake.

The good

The best part of being at the university was I kept learning and writing, went to conferences where I felt energized and inspired, took in a lot of advice and kept evolving as a teacher. In the position I had, I was lucky to meet so many other people at the university, who are a lot smarter than I am and who do more amazing things than I could ever dream to do. The faculty meetings, and the committee work and the planning meetings and all else, well, wasn’t always loving every second of those, well, not so much. Some of the faculty were always in bad moods.

The not so good

And honestly, no really, I was blindsided by the reality that not all of the students liked me every quarter; I didn’t know if I reminded some of them of their mothers or former teachers they disliked, or if they hated the assignments, the pressure and competitive nature of the school or just me.

Click me away

As the years went on I decided some of these students belonged to the clicker generation, because I was sure that some of them wanted to click me right off the stage or away from the podium and change the channel. Some wanted to click away anything and everything they found dull or not entertaining enough. Get to the end of the quarter, get the grade, get the degree, get the job.

Dividing into thirds

I learned that some quarters were just more difficult than others and that most times I could divide a large lecture class into thirds. All of them were very intelligent; it was the attitudes and approaches that varied widely along this triptych. A third of the students were every professor’s dream—ambitious, polite, energetic, eager, respectful, very advanced in their skills and abilities.

The real degree

That’s’ why I love graduation. I got to do that — meet their parents— and promised to stay in touch while they took pictures of me with their sons and daughters on their digital cameras under the white tents with the enormous strawberries, the red punch and the small cucumber and turkey sandwiches. This year featured cupcakes, chocolate covered pretzels and fruit kabobs.

Author of Act Like You’re Having A Good Time +5 other books; NU emerita faculty; journo, OpEd Project leader; editorial director TakeTheLead, mother of 3 sons.

Author of Act Like You’re Having A Good Time +5 other books; NU emerita faculty; journo, OpEd Project leader; editorial director TakeTheLead, mother of 3 sons.