No one likes to say goodbye. But twice a year I do it with a wistful smile.
graduation week at the University of Missouri, I put on my bright green
doctoral robe, cocked my tasseled tam and made march of pomp with my
With us on the arena floor,
scores of black-robed students laughed nervously. In the bleachers
around us, parents looked on with that special mixture of emotions:
pride in accomplishment, relief in completion and worry in a
I understand those emotions – mine are just as mixed. But let’s step back a few months.
Professors could trade their fancy robes for bib overalls. What we do is very much akin to farming – with a 15-week crop cycle.
do an awful lot of plowing the first few weeks of the semester. We dig
up the bits of knowledge students picked up from other teachers, turn it
over repeatedly and mix it well with composted lectures.
their brows are properly furrowed, we plant the seeds of knowledge and
cultivate intensely. Somewhere around midterm, they sprout. Or at least
the lights go on in their eyes. From that point on it's a race to keep
ahead of them.
Then at the end of each fall and spring semester, we harvest the best of them.
the students you impatiently tended walk across the stage and into
their future is the greatest reward of teaching. It comes with a cost,
of course. By the time they get to caps and gowns, they have a piece of
us with them. And as proud as we are, it hurts when that piece goes
There's a secret to making the most of academic
life, though. It's the same tip that a student speaker gave to his
fellow fledgling citizens of the world:
"Keep moving. Just don't stop moving."