Dear Seniors of 2015,

I need to make a tiny confession. You were already winners before the contest began, and you’ll continue to be winners long after it’s over.

I need to make another confession: I’ve been manipulating you to think that I am “The Keeper of the Words.” And yet, I struggle too–just like you–when faced with a prompt. And today, the cursor blinks patronizingly as I try to answer the prompt instructing me that somehow I must “Say Goodbye.”

I’m older than you, and by extension “wiser,” and I’ve got your captive attention for probably eight more seconds, so allow me a moment to share the thesis that you, your wisdom, and the time we have shared together has helped me to articulate.

Throughout her yearlong crusade to teach the 2015 Timpview AP Literature Students, Sierra Penrod purports that, though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter, kindness PLUS literature will create Meaning of the Work As A Whole.

The Rules Are Made Up—Not God’s Rules I suppose (If you’re into that sort of thing), nor your university’s rules but Society’s Rules, Penrod’s rules, High School’s Rules—they’re made up. So toe a line a little. Don’t contemplate the peach, sink your incisors into one. Forget about a napkin; lick the juice off your hands. Let yourself explore your tomorrow by feeling every corner of the room, even the corners marked off with red tape.
The Points Don’t Matter—I hope you find a deeper and stronger motivation in life to learn and to grow than points on a board. Don’t sacrifice your humanity for a point in a gradebook. Throw yourself into something intrinsically. Savor life’s marrow. Learn something because it is a pleasure and a thrill to understand. Rekindle the love of learning because getting an “A” in astronomy won’t help you to actually “Disturb the Universe.”
Be Kind To One Another—Embrace your inner Hufflepuff. In life, what’s most important is not twitter, or your brand new car, or your lack of car, or even the grades that I desperately want you to care about. What’s important about life is not you. Other people are most important. You don’t see them yet. It is the student in the lunchroom with no friends. It is your mom after she does your laundry. It is your future spouse and your one-day children. It is someone you don’t know yet, but that you have the power to bless infinitely. Be KIND to one another. Soul-crushingly kind. Be vulnerable! Get hurt! And then, when you’re so hurt you start to be angry, err on the side of forgiveness. Remember the wisdom, “To Err, is Human, to Forgive, Divine.” The world is full of students, who just like you, are begging for the world to carve a space for them. Lend them your chisel.

And finally, can I leave you with a last piece of wisdom before you depart into the quote unquote real world?

Spend some time getting lost in a fictional one. I think you owe it to yourselves, and your humanity to keep exploring, keep challenging, keep thinking, keep growing, and as such, keep reading.

So now I will phrase my conclusion and articulate a “So What?” for the year. Today, I call you my friends, because you’re not my students anymore. I have loved your victories, and appreciated the growth that has come from watching your trials. I have loved watching you learn and grow. I’ve loved watching you explore your humanity. I love being your teacher. And if you learned nothing else from reading this essay, then here is my Slightly Plagiarized Thesis Statement: Go forth, graduate, and disturb the universe a little.


Mrs. Penrod

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  1. May 23, 2015

    So wonderful to read Sierra! They are going to miss you!!!