Just in the past week, I've observed my students making beautiful music, explaining the inspiration behind their art, stealing bases on the baseball diamond, presenting posters about their research projects, organizing a massive public arts festival, painting children's faces, sketching raptors, tossing T-shirts, pushing pizzas, and generally putting every ounce of their considerable talent on public display, and I've marveled over their energy and wondered how they're still able to keep up with their coursework.
And yet they do. (Mostly. Exceptions are few enough to stand out.) Saturday morning at the Brick Streets Arts Bash I spent some time enjoying outdoor music downtown in cold, damp, windy weather not designed for lingering, and I finally had to seek an indoor event just to warm up and rest a bit. I was sitting in the warm theater getting ready to listen to the Escher String Quartet when I saw a student dashing up some steps to help the announcer with some essential task, and I thought, didn't I just see her on the other end of town, singing her heart out in the wind and cold? Indeed I did, and I would see her in several other places throughout the day, each time bubbling with energy and ready to work--while I'm sitting in the warm theater letting the lovely music and warmth soothe me very close to the edge of sleep.
I might complain a little bit this week about having to grade all the papers I've assigned (note to self: no more papers due in the last week of classes!) or about all those exams I have to print out and proctor and grade next week, but most of my work right now is sedentary and indoors, requiring no running around in the wind and the rain, no defending a semester's work in front of a room full of intimidating faces, nothing much at stake beyond a pat on the back for turning in grades on time and submitting assessment reports. At this point everyone is so busy that no one would even notice if I did my job badly--and yet it takes every bit of energy I possess to get through these final weeks of the semester. If I had to do it while performing music or creating art or playing baseball, I think I would lie right down in the middle of campus and give up.
But my students are not giving up. (Well, mostly.) They're doing all the hard work of mastering course material while performing to the best of their abilities in so many different ways I can't even count. For that, they deserve to stand up and take a bow.
(And then sit right back down to work on that paper for my class.)