Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thoughts on Watching the MTC Chorus at LDS General Conference

For me, the most memorable and moving part of watching LDS General Conference today came as I watched the MTC men's and women's chorus sing in the afternoon session.  Acres of bright and shiny Elders.  Hair trimmed down to a fare-thee-well.  Faces shining with expectations and commitment to their calling.  Rows and rows of beautiful pastel-clad young women, earnest and innocent and committed to their decision to be a missionary.  All of them singing with a passion that spoke of their love and commitment to their forthcoming assignments around the world.  And parents, Moms and Dads, brothers and sisters, grandparents, watching, looking carefully, searching for their son or daughter or brother or sister or grandchild.  And then that surge of pride, realizing that those years of messy rooms and drinking out of the milk carton from the fridge and surviving first loves and piano lessons and soccer games and report cards had all come down to this moment of joy in seeing the results of all of those hours and days and years of nurturing and hoping and praying.

I realized with more than a small pang of remorse how much I miss the generations of young people I taught over decades of labors in classrooms around the country.  For over 40 years, I lived in an adolescent and young adult world.  How many were there?  Maybe somewhere in excess of 20,000 students, give or take.  What good did I do them?  Did I make any lasting impression?  There were always a few problem cases, of course, that were not so enjoyable.  But almost all of them were like an extended family that I cared about and did my best to honor my job as a teacher and leave them with something more at the end of a class than they started out with.  Where are they now?  What have they done with their lives?I

 I can still smell the nervous perspiration in a warm room of 400 students taking a two hour final exam, tension and exasperation filling the air.  I watch their expectations on the first day of school as some of them have heard I am a hard teacher, and most of them know ahead of time that they hate economics.  They wonder what I am going to be like, if they are going to make it.  I try to sort out those with learning disabilities like dyslexia to make sure their learning possibilities are not thwarted.  I watch the pregnant girls bravely go through the class, one barely making it through the final exam, and one, at Colorado State, breaking her water in class.  I ordered all males to leave the room quickly, for the young women to gather around her, and sent someone to call the ambulance immediately.  I always wondered if this baby was a boy and thought he should have been named after me.

When I first started teaching school, the young wives worked while they "put their husbands through school."  In my last years, the husbands and/or wives switched the baby carrier in the hallway after class so both of them could continue their education, many of them bringing their babies and young children through the commencement ceremonies at the end of their college careers.

And so watching the MTC chorus was sort of like a reunion.  Here were the kinds of young people I worked with and loved for decades.  Now they are gone and I still miss them.  Each fall a new crop arrived, anxious moms and dads hoping for the best, young men and young women anxious to get on with their lives.  By Thanksgiving, most of them were veterans, they knew the campus inside out, they knew what they could get by with and what they could not.  One young lady came in just before Thanksgiving weekend and told me "I'm so thankful I won't have to take the final exam now.  I just got engaged and I'm getting married at Christmas."  I wanted to scold her but instead wished her well.

I still miss them all.



Elizabeth said...

Brought a tear to my eye. They all looked so very young and eager. And they sang especially well. My missionary grandchildren have talked about what a defining experience the MTC was for them. But it must be special to be there and be able to sing for General Conference, too. And, once a teacher, always a teacher, and nostalgia for the classroom lingers, even in my dreams.

Ann said...

Tender thoughts for such a good day. And if you looked very closely at the end of the last verse of the closing hymn, the camera caught David Archuleta (Elder Archuleta) in the MTC choir. Beautiful young people who have faith that they can make a difference. The world needs more just like them.
Dwight, a teacher has an amazing opportunity to touch so many lives and you did that with your heart and soul. I hope your memories help give you a sense of peace. Yours has been an amazing journey.

Judy said...

I started this day with a good cry while writing a comment on the blog about how much, as a child, I had loved Dwight and missed him when he left home.
Here I am at the end of the day having another weepy moment at this sacred place: the blog. I, too, was moved by the MTC choir this afternoon. The sound was beautiful, but it was the light in their faces that carried the message.
And yes, Ann, I almost didn't recognize the front row....a missionary haircut is transforming.

Judy said...

Good teachers leave lasting gifts to the next generation. I am always proud to mention the many teachers in our family. I don't think any of you are ever forgotten.

Louise Blood said...

This is very touching from a truly dedicated teacher. I, too, have often wondered how my students turned out, and where they are now. I did get a chance to see one of them at my birthday party last summer and was able to tell her how she was one of my favorites - she is doing well.