Monday, November 23, 2009

Can Your Thanksgivings Past Be Instructive for Your Students?

Thanksgiving has so many possible purposes and meanings. When I think of my life of great fortune to be a higher educator, my thoughts at Thanksgiving season naturally turn to some of my past Thanksgivings, for example, when I was a college student. I draw upon these occasionally for homilies for my students. I am going to do several blogs on this topic.

It was Thanksgiving 1961, the year the Berlin Wall went up and the first year of John Kennedy’s presidency. And it was the first year of John Gardner’s college experience. I was a seventeen year old “freshman”, at a beautiful, small, rural, liberal arts college, on the banks of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers in Marietta, Ohio. And oh was I homesick. And my mid term grades showed it: 3F’s, 2D’s and one A. What was the A in? You guessed it: PE, most challenging thing I did that fall: rowing crew. One of those D’s was in what I do now occasionally: public speaking.

Well, that year was 13 years before the US Senate amended the Privacy Act to permit colleges and universities NOT to send grades home to parents. As is rarely the case for me, I was ahead of my times. So my grades were mailed home to my parents. It was not an occasion for Thanksgiving, but it was an occasion for discussion with them, reflection, admonishment and more.

How are you going to use your Thanksgivings past for at least one homily that might lead at least one student to a small epiphany?

-John N. Gardner

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