The medium is the message

To clarify the expectations for the graduating class of 2014:
One of the Latin students among you is expected to return to FCS some years from now to continue the FCS Latin teacher lineage. Doc taught Magistra. Doc and Magistra taught me. Now Doc, Magistra, and I have taught you. You have a few years to sort out the details; I expect to see one of you back here before we’re all retired and gone away.

As you are figuring out the logistics of who will come back and when, you can start thinking about this one in advance: you’ll need to decide what kind of a teacher you will be during Meeting for Worship. Will you be an eyes-closed teacher or an eyes-open teacher? I’ve tried a number of times to be an eyes-closed teacher — a Ms Novo, a Mr V, or a Mr Gruber — but I’m not. I’ve tried to be the kind of teacher who comes in to Meeting for Worship, sits up straight, closes his eyes, and does work. Those teachers rarely speak, so you rarely know what’s going through their minds… but you know that it’s something important. You can almost see the sweat forming on their brows. Utter concentration on their faces. No slouching, no fidgeting. Something meaningful is happening on the inside, and it’s taking all of their attention.

But when I try to close my eyes in Meeting for Worship, my brain starts to swirl around inside of my skull, the floor under my left foot starts rolling in one direction and the floor under my right foot rolls in another. Before I know it my head starts nodding and I realize, again, that I’m not meant to be an eyes-closed teacher. 

But I would like to be an eyes-closed teacher because without saying anything at all, the eyes-closed teachers are sharing a message loud and clear: something important is at work in Meeting for Worship, it’s worthy of your attention, and it’s nothing that eyes can see. Some messages are expressed best without words.

The theme of the end of the school year is transformation. And as I think about that in the context of Meeting for Worship and this year’s graduating seniors, I can’t help but think of all of the messages I have learned from the seniors I have taught; I think about their messages, which are as unvoiced and unmistakable as a teacher closing his eyes, and how these messages have transformed me. The students who have grown along with me, matching me stride for stride in my journey being a teacher. The students who have taught me that this is the job I’m meant to do. The student who puts the “B” in my “BC.”

As much as I was tempted to stand up in their last Meeting for Worship and tell them — convince them — that they have transformed me, I’m sure that that transformational power has been the message behind every Meeting for Worship they’ve attended all along. That’s why we sit in silence. That’s what we’re listening for. Meeting for Worship is built upon the conviction that your truth has the power to make my reality a better place.

And so I didn’t need to stand up to share a message because the medium is the message. Every time I share my silence and my undivided attention with you, I am saying in the most deliberate way I know how: your truth has the power to transform my reality. So, please, I’m ready — stand up and speak. I’ll be listening.

To the seniors who will be graduating tomorrow: go out and speak your truth. Make the world a better place. There’s no one else who can do it quite the way you can.

Then make sure one of you comes back to teach Latin.


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