Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

Pomp and Circumstances

I used to be a cynic about graduation ceremonies and consequently missed my own doctoral “hooding.” I missed my own doctoral graduation (and my masters too, I believe) not only due to cynicism but also finances and geography–I was already teaching in Mexico during the doctoral ceremony. Today I had the honor of hooding my fourth doctoral student, Erika Vasconcelos. Now that I’ve seen Greg McClure, Dell Perry Giles, Jennifer Wooten, and Erika down the aisle and up on stage to be hooded, I have a new appreciation of ceremony. UGA does an incredible job creating a mood to mark the momentous occasion. We perform the gravity through our costume (cap and gown), sonic depth (Pomp and Circumstance and other march music which seems to come up from the ground), and procedures–walk, sit, stand, walk, hood, shake, smile (HUG), return to seat, clap, quiet, stand, sit, clap, sing the alma mater, va-voom! It may not sound like much but I am now a firm believer in the occasion of ceremony. We mark our humanness with our abilities to mark time, to celebrate, to stop and reflect. What kinds of rituals do we have and need to mark our daily life, our classroom life, our seasons and years. I remember celebrating a first birthday alone after I had gone to college in Boston for my undergraduate degree and learned then that if I needed to rely on myself to create the occasion–to invite friends, to let others know I was turning another year, to celebrate in company with a hug and piece of cake. Today, I didn’t have to plan anything; nor did my student. The University of Georgia throws a wonderful party to celebrate students’ accomplishments. I feel honored to have been invited to attend to celebrate Erika, to see Jennifer, to remember Dell and Greg’s big day and then in some small way, remember my own accomplishments as well as our shared ones. Knowing how to honor the passing of time and the actions within that time is a skill I will continue to develop as a teacher, parent, human-being. What are you celebrating, honoring, remembering? What traditions do you hold dear? What traditions have you invented? What classroom traditions might we create to honor our students’ accomplishments, celebrate what has been and welcome what is to come?


One response to “Pomp and Circumstances

  1. Stephen October 18, 2011 at 4:19 am

    Thanks teachersactup-Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor for this great site. Seems like there’s always something new I learn even after being in the field for 10 years.


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