Friday, June 25, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
i now ask for your permission to address them.
first of all, i would like to thank you, the class of 2010, for the honor of being able to have this last little class. a public one, which takes me three years back.
after two years as a guidance counselor in a brazilian private school, i was looking for a job in the international school world, hoping to teach mathematics. like most of you, i’ve loved math all my life, and after completing my degree in education, i started my studies in math. i’d never heard of chapel before, it was my cousin who gave me the hint. in april of 2007, mr feitosa told me that a few months earlier, chapel school had been looking for a math teacher. i wrote the school the very next day, and was immediately invited to an interview. i still remember the seemingly endless walk from the reception to mr ciallelo’s office. a strange world that has become home to me.
i felt the interview went ok, and a “test class” was the next step in the process. after my first contact with miss may, it became clear the audience that time would be these good-looking people, but in 9th grade. “this is generally a good class”, she told me. and finally, in the beginning of may, i had a chance to see for myself.
so there i was, about to teach a rather public class. mr ciallelo, ms colgrove, my good friend mr murphy, and ms may where there. less public than today, but maybe even more pressure. i remember talking to anders boman before class. and i know that quite of few of you sitting here were there too. you probably don’t remember it, but i sure do! i remember silvia and jayme. and i remember that the class was about n-gons.
the class didn’t go too well. i was more nervous than i anticipated, it was my first math class ever, and i wasn’t really used to speaking english at the time. in the interview after the class, i was told that a decision would be made by the end of may – and that if they didn’t call me, i should call in to find out.
can you imagine my disappointment? i was quite mad at myself, because i felt i had failed under pressure.
and sure enough, i didn’t get a call at the end of may. instead, i called – and was surprised by the information that they were still interviewing and that they would call me with a final answer a few days later. which meant that somehow i was still in the running.
i was very surprised when mr ciallelo offered me the job. and it only made sense that the schedule i received soon thereafter featured one class heavily – the one sitting in front of me.
and how lucky i have been! this might sound over the top, i am aware of that. but it is the honest truth: i never knew how wonderful teaching could be before i taught this class. don’t get me wrong: i’ve always enjoyed teaching and i’ve had a few memorable classes in the past, but this was something different, something else. students who hated physics studying it over night to do well in a test; of course, the grade seemed to be a big motivator, but there was certainly quite a bit more to it. at times, they actually seemed interested! and, very important for an effective classroom, they had a great sense of humor. some of their invented expressions were incorporated into my own vocabulary, and although no one seems to say “mythical”, “jebondy” or “jebonai” any more, i have a few friends outside of school who still do.
but over the course of that first year, when some students had to put up with me in two classes (physics and math), i understood more about why this class was different. they accepted people. they respected. they included. and they did it because they believed it to be right.
three years have passed. i’ve seen less of you as a whole class, although poor arthur has had me as a teacher in a record 5,5 classes. i’ve seen you fight for academic success. numbers and statistics don’t lie – this class has been a success story for our school and for us, teachers. you have mastered some tough ib classes and are headed for some pretty interesting college experiences. and all the hard work will pay off immediately. in your math-related courses, i guarantee you at least one full semester of pure review.
but today is no time to talk about math or physics. neither is it necessarily a time to talk about the future, the world’s challenges and what you guys can do about both of these things. i guess as we live longer, we notice that more things seem to be out of our control than we might desire. you have shown what can be done with great determination, a sense of union and a nice dose of humor. but it should also be clear to you that total control of your life’s destiny is and will always be unreachable; and it might not even be worth reaching.
there are things you can control. like happiness, for example. i know that this is quite a statement to make, since we generally have difficulties even defining what happiness is. i mean, is it a feeling, is it a state of mind, is it even tangible – can it be scientifically proven? are there parameters that tell us when we reach maximum or minimum local happiness? do we just derive the function of happiness and equal it to zero? and if there is a function of happiness, what would the independent variable be?
i want to make point tonight, a quite obvious one, almost cliché. i agree that there is more than one variable to happiness, but i want to focus on the most basic – the love variable.
i firmly believe that it is impossible to be happy if you haven’t learned to love. the curriculum of love is the most difficult around, believe me. it’s tougher than ib, and if you don’t take some time to learn it and practice it, happiness will not be easy to come by. not the exhilarant happiness of a moment, but the constant one. the one that is still there when you’re disappointed, suffer setbacks or are tired and sad.
previous knowledge in the subject of love is diverse, because it depends so much on past individual experience. but some things generally don’t have to be learned: how to love or hate yourself, sometimes almost simultaneously. how to fall in love, and even how to fall out of it. and how to despise or hate, which are some weird, but not uncommon forms of love. you might agree that some of these might provoke the exact opposite of happiness – which is not sadness, but fear. it is fear that leads to hatred, or despair, or loneliness, or depression, or indifference. if that is the case, then there must be some kind of connection between happiness and love. f(x) and x, if you will. (i can’t help myself.) because the cubic function comes to mind – you know which one i mean? as x goes to infinite positive, the sky is the limit for f(x) – but the reverse is also true.
how do we make the x tend to positive infinite? in other words, how can we actually learn to love? is there a right way to love? there is. and i’d like to close these considerations with three steps you can take towards the infinite:
first: step down of your own pedestal. as you know, i am a firm believer in God. therefore, it should be quite easy for me to put myself in my place, shouldn’t it? but my ego makes it difficult to follow this first step. true humility is a noble goal, and it is definitely worth pursuing. but i know from own experience that the closer i get to being truly humble, the happier i am.
second: know and appreciate yourself. it’s tough to sometimes look at ourselves and see the many shortcomings. this is why we sometimes avoid to look, and react allergic to those who we think or know are seeing these shortcomings. once again, this is fear showing its ugly face. don’t be afraid to look at yourself, come to terms with whom you are, and be okay with it. is that easy? not at all! but i can assure you, it is a way to happiness, because it is essential in the love curriculum.
third: as the good ol’ book puts it, “love thy neighbor”. and when i say “love”, i don’t mean like. to like is more specific, it has to do with affinity; you know when you just get along with someone, and you just don’t get along with that other someone? but to love, this is more essential, broader. it’s a genuine respect for the other, for his or her story, feelings, dreams. it’s independent of weaknesses and free of judgment; it is not conditional.
these steps are connected and support each other. it’s actually like a triangle: learning to love others in a genuine way really helps you to be okay with yourself, and puts our own ego-trip into perspective. learning to love ourselves really helps us appreciate and respect others, once again making us capable of seeing the big picture. and recognizing that i am not more important than anyone else who is trying to live a happy life on this planet really makes us move into the direction of loving others – which always finds a way of reflecting back to us. but the first step is more important, since without humility, self-love will be our natural tendency, and unhappiness will follow, sooner or later.
this is my one advice for this special moment: please remember to constantly take time to reflect on the curriculum of love, and on the things that really matter. the studying, the career, the work, maybe the future family, the ideals – this is all extremely important. but without the love, it seems somewhat meaningless – because love is a key ingredient in all of these things, we can’t really run away from it. grow in that curriculum, one that has no limits to it. work on the x-axis, and the dependent variable happiness will react.
the true reason this class is so special to me is that i’ve grown in all three steps of this special curriculum because of you. you have taught me lessons of love, and it is not difficult to say that you have my unconditional love. please, continue to grow in love, and radiate this truth to others the same way you have radiated it to your parents, your teachers, your colleagues and to me.
my cycle at this beloved school started with you, and it is ending with you. this public class is over. may you, the class of 2010, be remembered and known as the class that learned to love, and the world will certainly be a happier place for it.
congratulations, you all deserve love and happiness – today and tomorrow!"