The late poet Stanley Kunitz wrote of “your presence, your fugitive presence” in part of a longer piece that hangs above my head as I type. We humans, realizing that our presence is indeed fugitive, long to be remembered when we’re gone. Grand monuments, simple headstones, initials carved into trees and elementary school desks, graffiti sprayed on overpasses…each created by someone who wanted the world to know, “I was here.”
During the holidays, many of us will pore through old family pictures, remembering the fugitive presences of children now grown and older relatives now departed. We take pleasure in affirming, “They were here.”
As I’ve mentioned recently in my blog, my current A&P II class is very special, living proof that pleasure in learning is both important and attainable. Today is our last regular class meeting. Tomorrow they will rush in, take their final exam, and depart for bigger and better things. I will miss them terribly, and, just for a while, I will resent the newcomers who will claim their vacated seats in January. They have humored me by saying that they will miss me, too.
Thinking about how to honor their fugitive presences in my class, I decided to offer the students their own version of “Kilroy Was Here.” I have a newly replaced life-sized skeleton on the door to my workroom. (You can print your own in adult or child size by visiting eskeltons.org.) I invited my students to sign the skeleton, adding a few words of advice for incoming students if they wished. Here’s what it looks like so far:
Several students have said they want to think about what to write and wait until the very last moment. It’s becoming a rite of passage. I pass through that door several times on a typical day, and I know that I will take pleasure in remembering the students who worked earnestly and cheerfully in my class, teaching their teacher more than they know.
Have you devised a way for students to commemorate their presence in your class? How have you done it?