The next generation is today

Published 4:13 pm Tuesday, June 3, 2008

“You have it in yourselves to be the generation that brings us together so that truly no one is left behind … that things inside you … that was provoked, shaped and nurtured here is the thing that can uplift the soul and inspire courage and purpose — the thing that can imbue you with the capacity to see through the rancor to the human potential that binds us all together.” — William Green, superintendent of Minneapolis public schools commencement address

Today is the last day of school in Austin. The day many students have waited for all year. According the Tribune William Green shared the words above at St. John’s University commencement. For those of you unsure about the word “rancor” the thesaurus points out synonyms: resentment, bitterness, animosity, malice, spite, ill will. You get the feeling.

We have a son graduating. Yesterday was their last day. Being at the age I am I am not working full time so I get be home when Skyler and his friends assemble, either in the basement or up in his room and what a joy it has been to greet this crowd that stops by to “hang out.” All of them very polite, at least to me and I suspect to one another.

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I think Austin High School has been a good place for them to get a sound education and opportunities to explore their interests and recreation and co-mingling with almost a gender balance. Skyler brings home books to read! Something his father failed to do when he was in Austin High School. We passed around copies of Mad Magazine instead.

After school some of us gathered at the Spot to shoot pool and on weekends we spent most of our time at the Tower, above George’s Pizza. Brighams (not sure of the spelling) was the first stop after school for a pink-lemonade and a place to be cool. That’s where the girls gathered.

However, in terms of thinking I think today’s students think more than we did and I think that is what William Green is implying in his commencement address as he spoke to graduates of St. John’s University. I think thinking is there for all of us and it seems to grow over the years.

I feel fortunate that I ran into thinking in Miss Morey’s class in fifth grade at Banfield. She was good at not telling us what to do but saying instead asking, “How are we going to do this?” Then reading to us after lunch. My favorite book she read “Call It Courage” the same book I read to our kids along the way.

I met up with Edith Morey again when I came back to Austin in 1980 and we would have long conversations. She gave me literature regarding manic depression, something I dealt with after Vietnam. One day we drove over to Rochester and sat in the courtroom where she had a final hearing and if I remember right she said it was all about “professional jealousy”. And because of her I went into elementary education, in part due to her but also back then one only needed a 2.0 grade point average to teach elementary and a 2.5 to teach high school.

I taught for a while in Banfield for half the year my first year, teaching sixth grade, not fifth grade, but I wasn’t Miss Morey. She was one of a kind. At class reunions some of us get together and talk about “the Morey days”.

I resigned in February and moved to California and after two weeks I was teaching in a place called Mira Loma, a rather impoverished district. I replaced a wonderful lady who had had a heart attack who reminded me of an aging Miss Morey. Again I was teaching sixth grade and enjoying myself and I was taken in by another sixth grade teacher there and his family.

Both he and his wife passed away not so long ago. I got to spend some time with their daughter a couple summers ago when she came to Rochester with her daughter and son-in-law for some surgery for him. Sherri lives on the Big Island in Hawaii. She went over there with $30 to her name years ago.

Sherri was in 6th grade when we boarded a troop ship to go to Vietnam. Everyone was sitting on the deck writing letters to their wives or girlfriends I wrote my one letter to Sherri.

I hope to write Miss Morey’s story.