It's the last week of classes in the U-W system. I've got 5 more classes to teach, Matt has just a few left to take, then on to finals. It's crazy busy like it always is at the end of the semester. There are research papers and final portfolios to wade through, but then...freedom. Camping. Other summer work. Writing time, much of which may take place at my favorite Golden Leaf Cafe, which sells really good pie. But pie isn't what I was trying to talk about. It's milestones.
The wonderful thing about the academic system is that is has regular beginnings and endings. It has a rather unnatural setting (a whole group of people of the same age-ish together in a small space, deadlines that don't correspond with the rest of the world) but I'll take it because it understands how to step back and admire accomplishments. So few places have this. Think about it: in the business and nonprofit worlds, when, outside of retirement celebrations and fundraising events, do we stop and see what we have accomplished? time passed, projects completed.
Some of my Intro to Lit. students saw their first professional play and attended their first poetry reading this semester. They've started using the word "postcolonial" and know more about southern India than they probably ever thought they would, thanks to Arundhati Roy's gorgeous novel The God of Small Things. I think that is so neat, and I'm so proud watching them grow as readers and discussers of literature in its various forms.
It's a lot easier to notice what other people have accomplished or learned than to notice the same in ourselves.
I grew up in a family that celebrates occasions. Birthdays. Christmas. Easter. Did I mention birthdays? They're huge. Matt's family didn't. They note the occasions, but they don't make a big deal. They give gifts at random times, rather than waiting for a date. I like both systems. But I still like occasions. Points that allow people to stop and look and celebrate. What can you celebrate in May?