Friday, May 24, 2013

Lesson 18- Let the Commencement begin

How Truck Driving School for GIrls is good for us all

All around me people are graduating. Every day an invitation comes in the mail from someone I thought was in preschool. Every weekend stadium lights come on and long lines of young people await their walking papers. Parents beam, thinking of what the future holds for their child.

I feel better already.

I’m not kidding. I really do. I believe in the human spirit. With a single positive thought, many can benefit.
When something is learned, everyone advances just a little. It’s progress. And it’s palpable this month. Commencement is advancement for us all. When one student steps forward on that stage, we all move forward a little. Every generation benefits from generations before and after them. Think of Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein and Jonas Salk.
Graduation is forward motion.

 From learning to walk to learning to read. From riding a bike to correctly pronouncing words. With one person’s improvement, we are all better for it.
 When my granddaughter (whose pen name is Valerie Fields) started Pre-K, she seemed to learn exponentially. One minute she was depending on us to feed her and hold her hand to stand up. The next she was counting by 5s to 200. A curriculum was all she needed to propel her- and us- into the reality that she was no longer helpless. To prepare for kindergarten, Valerie Fields began speaking and inventing words in Spanish. She   didn’t just learn to tie her shoes; she tied bows on everything. 

But learning is not without strife.
Learning can bring defiance, bull-headedness, whining and more than a little back talk. All of this was necessary, we assured Valerie Fields’ mother, to teach her confidence. To accept and own what she was learning.  

Like Valerie Fields I, too, struggle with learning. Sometimes I make the same mistake 56 times before I understand why it’s wrong. We all need refresher courses.

Which explains Truck Driving School for Girls

Just before Valerie Fields’ graduation, she told me she wanted to take some summer classes. She worried she might stop being smart if she took a few weeks off.  She was thinking about cheerleading and dance classes. And maybe a truck-driving school, just for girls.

Though Valerie Fields’ third course of study surprised me, it made me the proudest. Truck Driving School for Girls was her four year old version of breaking a glass ceiling. She was fascinated by cars and trucks. And because she had no life models for that, she knew a course of study was the next step. What confidence she had already learned. 

The trickledown effect

Imagine my pride when Valerie Fields walked calmly to the front of the room (her cap and gown more than slightly askew) and sat with her classmates.

The wishes, prayers and optimism of families, teachers and loved ones brought these kids to this point. And they would every class after them.  When Valerie Fields’ name was called, she raced to the podium for her diploma. As she received it, she announced her plans to become a basketball player.  Though stunned, we were moved forward a decade in that single moment. I’d like to think that the next time I learn something the hard way, another truck driving school graduate is becoming a basketball player.    

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