Did I miss anything?
With a grateful nod to Garrison Keillor's practice of reciting a poem each day on The Writer's Almanac, here is a poem for the end of the semester by Tom Wayman, entitled "Did I Miss Anything?":
Question frequently asked byI hope that you'll forgive my inability to indent "Did I Miss Anything?" as its author intended - you'll be able to see what I tried and failed to do in this regard if you click here. More importantly, though, I hope that you'll agree that the sarcasm of Wayman's poem belies its positive message. I have never been tempted to offer absent students any of the caustic replies presented by Wayman, but I believe that there is something profound about his conclusion about the classroom serving as "a microcosm of human existence / assembled for you to query and examine and ponder."
students after missing a class
Nothing. When we realized you weren't here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours
Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 percent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I'm about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 percent
Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose
Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring this good news to all people
Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?
Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human existence
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
but it was one place
And you weren't here
As another academic year comes to an end, those of us who are involved in education - as teachers and as students - would do well to think about how we approach the academic enterprise. Do we regard teaching and scholarship simply as a way to make a living, or is a vocation that offers a sense of joy and fulfillment? Is learning an end in itself, or is it simply a means to other ends - economic success, prestige, or power? Does the time we spend in the classroom raise questions that remain with us long after we've moved on to other things?
My prayers for all readers who are busy with end-of-semester business, whichever side of the desk you find yourself on. Please spare a prayer for me, too, as things wrap up on Hawk Hill. AMDG.