If you don’t follow me on twitter (or know me in real life), you don’t know that I’ve made the incredibly difficult decision to leave my current school and move back from D.C. to Nashville, to be closer to family. The past few weeks have been filled with a strange mix of fear, excitement, sadness, and peace as I have been experiencing quite a few “lasts” and saying goodbye to my lovely students and colleagues.
Reflection on the highlights of these past few years deserves its own (much longer) post, but I wanted to take a moment to post the email I just sent to my students this evening.
It’s a rainy Monday evening, and I am taking a break from grading your exams.
For most of you, your summer has already begun and school is probably the furthest thing from your mind at this point. But, I wanted to take this opportunity to send you one last email.
This afternoon I read this (truly excellent) address by Ben Bernanke to the recent class of Princeton grads. This quote really resonated with me:
“Does the fact that our lives are so influenced by chance and seemingly small decisions and actions mean that there is no point to planning, to striving? Not at all. Whatever life may have in store for you, each of you has a grand, lifelong project, and that is the development of yourself as a human being. Your family and friends and your time at Princeton have given you a good start. What will you do with it? Will you keep learning and thinking hard and critically about the most important questions? Will you become an emotionally stronger person, more generous, more loving, more ethical? Will you involve yourself actively and constructively in the world? Many things will happen in your lives, pleasant and not so pleasant, but, paraphrasing a Woodrow Wilson School adage from the time I was here, “Wherever you go, there you are.” If you are not happy with yourself, even the loftiest achievements won’t bring you much satisfaction.”
The entire text of his speech can be found here and is well worth a read, but this part struck a chord with me, and I thought it worth passing on to you. Whatever you are doing this summer, whether it is working a summer job, traveling, volunteering, resting, spending time with family, or a combination of the above, I hope you take the time to keep learning and thinking hard about the most important questions.
Math may be the outlet through which we had the chance to discuss the universe around us this year, but (as you well know) it’s only one slice of all that there is to explore. I hope you take the time this summer to pursue your intellectual and creative interests, and perhaps push yourself to learn new things outside of your normal comfort zone.
In that vein, there are several truly great YouTube channels worth your time. In fact I stumbled on a new one today through a video some of you (especially my philosophers in 5th period) might enjoy: Is Math a Feature of the Universe or a Feature of Human Creation?. Other highly recommended channels include: Veritasium, Numberphile, Vsauce, SciShow, and of course, Vi Hart :)
As a math teacher, I’m much better at numbers than at words – you had my class for a year so you are all aware of that fact. So I’ll end this here – with an exhortation for you all to continue to push yourselves – to grow in compassion for others and understanding of our beautiful, complicated, dynamic world.
If you’d like to keep up with my teaching life in Tennessee, you can find my professional blog here: https://sonatamathematique.wordpress.com.
Best of luck on your “grand, lifelong project.”
Here’s to new adventures.
More soon on what’s next for me. Hope all of you who are experiencing transitions this year (new jobs, new cities, new babies) are doing well, and thanks to all of you for your strength and support as I make some big changes!