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Learning at its Best

Death and the Educational World

Death and the Educational World:


   This afternoon I attended a funeral.  This is not an event that I look forward too, nor do I believe many people do.  Usually funerals are important for two critical reasons, the first being the emotional closure to losing a loved one, and the second, as a time reflect on ones own mortality.  Today, however, as I walked back down the path, through the trees of my undergraduate college campus, I could only think about the quietness in which educators passing has, both throughout history and our current time. 

    You see, this funeral, was not that of a family member or close friend, but of a late professor of mine.  A man who helped shape my understanding of progressive education, the use of narrative voice in teaching history, an individual who not only transformed me but thousands of others, both through his teaching and also, throughout his transformative work in establishing a college that was unique unto itself.  A truly full life he led.  Even up to the end of his life, he was still transforming students and still teaching.  Being a part of hospice care for nearly the last year of his life, my professor used this opportunity to teach others about death, and dying with dignity.  The doctors said that by doing so, he extended his life prognosis by over six months.  Every day, former students, family members, college administrators, professors, and his banjo band mates would come over to his bed, to be inspired by a story, to speak about the nature of learning, or to just jam out with friends. 

     This man was an individual who truly changed the lives of many.  Is he leaving this world with a parade down Main Street of my town, or great admiration by the larger segments of society?  No, nor would that have been what he wanted, but it is what he deserved.  A few hundred of his classmates, advisors, mentors, family and friends, gathered in a traditional long house, to sing songs, tell stories and burn tobacco into the sky, to remember a dear friend and a great teacher.  In a way, the mood and atmosphere was perfect and I would not have wanted it any different.  However, what is remarkable to me is that not enough could be done to encapsulate the transformative spirit that this individual had on the educational world, and yet, the world gives very little back to a man who did so much for so many.  It aches at my heart that I cannot cry out and yell to all those who are in near or far distances and shout with joy and sadness of the greatness and great loss of this person. 

     I’ve come to a conclusion about being a member in the educational world.  It is by far an insular world that has close relationships and is met with little fan-fare.  The adulation in which you will receive by your work will be little, but the lives you change will be great.  There will not be a three day morning with thousands of visitors, but there will be a small gathering of people who feel sincerity and warmth by your presence and that remember you for all of the ways in which you helped them.  In so this way, a ripple effect is born out of the educator’s life, and their death, and whether you are within the system or without it, the change you will have is most assuredly in the lives of the individuals in whom you touched, and maybe not in the world you were inspired to change. 

      It is important to remember that our time is precious and our relationships are meaningful.  We are only here for a short amount of time, we must make the most of what we have to offer and embrace the positive all around us.  I will leave you with one last quote from the philosopher Rumi, which sums up the educators existence. 

    “Yesterday, I was cleaver and tried to change the world.  Today I am wiser and I am trying to change myself.”



About caseykcaronna

A 27 year old Master of Arts in Education Degree holder from the progressive, liberal arts school, Goddard College. I am interested in Holistic, Community, Progressive, Democratic and Student-Centered Education. I am currently a part-time employee with the Boy Scouts of America. I am writing my first book on holistic education and looking for full time employment in education, throughout the United States and Canada. I am interested in all things education and hope to make trans-formative changes to the educational system(s) in America and in the process help to improve the lives of the individuals in whom it serves.


4 thoughts on “Death and the Educational World

  1. Good reminders.

    My mom passed this last year. At least five generations of students attended her memorial service. She loved teaching kids to read. Her passion was evident.

    They didn’t remember her lessons. They remembered her love.

    Thanks for the reminders.
    Janet |

    Posted by Janet Abercrombie | March 26, 2012, 3:27 am
  2. Great post. I have been teaching for almost 15 years now and the way you explain it….is the way it is. You either love or leave it…and if you do stay…you change many lives by your actions…but dont expect that to be repeated by your students. I hope when i am done in twenty years or so my students will respect what i have done and after i pass…they will see me at my viewing and thank me for what i have done.

    Posted by bones | March 26, 2012, 6:37 am
  3. It is “the human touch” that is remembered.

    Posted by Brent Snavely | March 26, 2012, 7:34 am
  4. Beautiful post Casey. These types of relationships can’t be tested, or ranked or lined up in a row, but want makes teaching such a human profession. Thanks for the reminder.

    How do we talk to ed reformers about educators that holistically connect to life and their students?


    Posted by dloitz | March 26, 2012, 4:24 pm

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