Learning a Little About the Students

An aardvark walking, with small bushes behind it.
by Louise Joubert/Wikimedia Commons

On the first day of school, the teacher asked the elementary school students to say one thing about themselves.

Starting in the front row, each student spoke. Some spoke energetically, some softly. Olivia Murrell’s favorite color: purple, Noah Hillman’s favorite food: pizza, Sofia Valdez’s favorite movie: The Wizard of Oz, Makayla Weber’s favorite food: cake, Dominic Rowley’s favorite color: red, Xavier Carrasco’s favorite baseball team: Los Angeles Dodgers, Ellie Ishida’s favorite holiday: Christmas, Anthony Arborghast’s favorite animal: zebra.

The teacher help up her hand and said, “Let’s take a little break there, please. I have a question. Anthony Aardvark Arborghast, could you tell the class why your parents picked your middle name? I’m very curious.”

Anthony Aardvark Arborghast was a shy boy and his voice was low, but he managed the explanation. “My mom and dad wanted my middle name to be an animal. But they couldn’t agree on which animal. My mom’s favorite animal is the aardvark, and my dad’s favorite is the albatross. They had a contest for who could pick my middle name. They played one round of miniature golf and one round of gin rummy. They worked on the crossword puzzle in a Wednesday edition of the New York Times to see who could get the most answers. They jumped to see who could jump the farthest. They wrote essays about the possible dangers of technology. Three of their friends served as judges to pick the winner of that one. They took a test of real-world math, which included household finances, sales tax, and statistics in news stories. And finally, they made funny faces and funny voices to a friend to see who could make the friend laugh louder. They agreed on a complicated scoring system for all those contests to see who won the whole thing. My mom won.”

Silence in the classroom as the teacher and students took in all of what Anthony Aardvark Arborghast had said. The kids looked around at each other. The kids looked at Anthony Aardvark Arborghast.

The teacher said, “Well, Anthony, I think you have interesting parents.”

“Weird is more like it,” Anthony Aardvark Arborghast said.


copyright © 2021 Dave Williams

Congrats to the Grads

Photo of a crowd of graduates wearing caps and gowns
by Good Free Photos/Unsplash

My twin daughters are graduating from high school today, and I would like to extend a congratulations not only to them, but to the many graduates out there.

And a congratulations to all the students and teachers on wrapping up this school year. It’s been unlike any other school year, with worries about Covid-19 while juggling virtual and in-person education.

A big thank you to the teachers and school staff for their hard work to make this school year work.

I’ve listened to a particular commencement speech several times and keep coming back to it: David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water speech given at Kenyon College’s 2005 graduation ceremony. The honesty how Wallace described dull moments of everyday life. His honesty on how we can choose to view each other. That choice we have about judging others. I tear up every time I hear it.

The full speech is here. An edited version also includes video of the subject matter (instead of DFW giving the speech), and that’s here.