Saturday, April 16, 2011

Goodbye Twenty Eleven

Life is a long goodbye.  Every teacher knows that. It’s a series of meetings and departures – you come into contact with other lives, you meet a couple of times a week over some years, you explore the world together and share some laughs, maybe some tears, and then you separate. As the great Indian teacher, Siddhartha Guatama discovered, suffering appears when your desires attach themselves to illusions of permanence.  But that’s a hard lesson to accept.  The solution, detachment, seems so cold.

Every year, at this time, I need to detach myself from a group of students who have been with me for some time.  And for the students the time eventually dawns, when they come to school for that very final lesson.  Lessons done, only the exams remain, and then that group of young people will be blown to the four corners of the earth, in all likelihood never to meet again as a group. In my school, yesterday was that final day.  A day of celebration and pranks, happiness and joy, but a day of endings too, which, except for the masters of detachment, comes with a tinge of sadness.

I’m an early arrival in the morning, and yesterday I was greeted by an entrance-way packed with balloons:

The stairway from the underground car-park had been filled with plastic glasses of water, an impassable barrier to those faculty who insist in spouting CO2 emissions. (You’ve guessed it: I’m a non-driver):  

The assistant principal’s office had been wrapped in newspaper:

Obviously not a normal day – for the senior students, that last day has come.  And here is my happy group of ten young historians (where is Vincent?), waiting to greet me for the last time.  They don't normally look this happy when class is about to start!

One last time we will compare the ideologies of Maoism, Nazism and Stalinism. Ines, the Spanish ballerina; Michael, ready to apply his Marxist analysis; Nina, already a social worker; Kathleen of the golden voice and Jacopo, my Italian teacher, are eager to start:

Nicole and Amanda, hard working scholars both (it's true), are doing what they have always done - must be that Mexican and Brazilian blood:

Lara and Grace, happy, despite having missed the Paris trip, are looking particularly graceful in those hats (hey, don't we have a rule ...?)

And what is Ika up to with that camera?

As the day grows on, we meet again - this time its the last last time.  We have lost two members of the class already, but time for another group photo, taken to a Beatles soundtrack - "I've got a Feeling", and Vincent tries a con-Vincing smile.

And another photo.  This is not a vulgar gesture.  The two fingers stands for eleven, as in the class of 2011.  And watch out - that's pronounced "Twenty-Eleven" - remember where you heard it first:

Some are still managing to smile, including a decapitated, but still hooded Michael. He ain't stalling:

And Spanish eyes, though closed, are still smiling:

But realization that the clock is relentlessly ticking, brings us to the contemplation of the end that is drawing near. And sadness appears:

Dancing has ceased:

And as the music ends, and our time together in room 206 is about to slip into the kingdom of memory, a sepia light illuminates the room, suffucing our last moments with a sense of the historic:

No more walking barefoot in the park; no more research trips to the Andaman islands or presentations on the Napoleon Fish; no more choir room or jokes that go over people's heads; no more Czech mates or Czech marks; no more stopping in the name of love. Can I forget the class of 2011? Well, as Bonaparte nevere said - course I can't.


  1. Saying goodbye is the hardest task of all. It makes me weepy, just reading your post.

    Even if you have taken heaps of photos and recorded major events in the blog and elsewhere, there will NEVER AGAIN in history be another occurrence of these people, in this place, at that particular time.

    The most you can hope for is that some part of your teaching will go with the students back to Brasil, India and Spain, or wherever they go. That in 10 years time they will be telling a class what they remember of the precious learning years in your course.

  2. No doubt they will remember some things. The question is, what things....:)

  3. Mr. Doolan, thank you for the two years spent with you, I'll never forget them, and I'll never forget you.
    Although the jokes were sometimes painful, I'll never forget any of them either... they'll haunt me every time I read about Russia and Moscow. When I will finally get the chance to visit Moscow, I'll think that I must go to Moscow, so I'll rush to Russia. I definitely won't be StalLin' for long!

  4. Thanks a million Jacopo. I enjoyed our many talks. If you get tired rushing around in Russia, you can move to a place with a slower pace, like Slovenia.

  5. The class of 2011. To the regular people just a class that's graduating in 2011 (or should I say twenty eleven), but to us it's history. Thank you for the last two years Mr. Doolan. I am going to miss your puns, the choir room and your passion for history. I will always remember you when I see/hear of something historical or Marxist. Just make sure that you give the right people credit for their jokes and make sure you wear your hat often

  6. Thanks Michael - and thanks for the hat. I wore it this weekend.

  7. By the way, I did my gap year in Israel in 1966, along with 119 other 18 year olds from the southern hemisphere (mostly South Americans). I think my being sad about your experience was just me being sad about losing friendships from that very intense year.

    In 2006, there was a 40th anniversary reunion of our group in Israel. Some of the lecturers and students were dead, but almost everyone else tried to get there. We were greyer, wrinklier, paunchier.. but very excited to catch up. Photos of the spouses, children and grandchildren were hugely popular :)

  8. Mr Doolan this is so cute! Thanks for these past two years, and all of your good humor throughout. We will always remember our legendary history class and teacher, and we hope to be in return, the main subjects of your stories in the following years!

  9. Thanks Amanda. You are already becoming part of the legend that I will hand done for years to come :-)

  10. Merci!
    Thank you very much for having made the last year in this rigid program so much more entertaining and bearable! Rest assure that I will NOT be pursuing a career in economics :D.(Philosophy!!)

    I only have one thing to say: This is not "The end".
    A tres tres bientot et bonne chance pour les prochaines annees!

  11. Merci beaucoup et toi aussi, bonne chance Kathleen.

  12. Mr. Doolan! This blog is so sweet, it made me laugh as I read all our history jokes. I don't know whether it's a good or bad thing, but I'll remember them forever I think; I'll remember the jokes and all your stories too. Thank you for all the classes in the past two years!!


  13. Thank you so much Mr Doolan for these last 2 years. This was such a nice blog as well, I'm so glad we all get our very own part to play in this legendary blog. It's going to be sad not hearing "if you want to know more about this, go to my blog... not now!" ever again. Today I was studying Napoleon and all I could think about were all the jokes...lets hope that doesn't happen on the exam too!


  14. Hi Grace, Thanks a lot and, well, I'm glad to hear you are studying about Napoleon.

  15. Thank you Mr.Doolan not only for the knowledge that you’ve shared with us in these past two years but also for the good times which we had both in the choir room and in room 206. I will never forget your jokes, your singing and dancing, and most importantly I hope that I will also remember the information which I will need for the exam. We will miss you!


  16. Thanks Lara. And thanks for teaching me about the Napoleon Fish! Too bad you missed Paris because of a wedding in Brazil! Thanks for your help with Amnesty.

  17. This is so cute! Very moving:') hope you all stay in contact:)

    1. Thanks Sarah. I think I am still in contact with all of these students.