Friday, February 23, 2007

I spent seven stirring hours yesterday watching formal presentations delivered by the 8th grade students. I actually couldn’t believe, as the hours passed, that these were 13-year-olds who were speaking to us with such poise and dignity. They talked as if they have been delivering orations to imposing groups of people for many years. They were nervous, of course, but that only added to the distinction of their performances, for it enabled them to demonstrate their ability to show grace in difficult circumstances. One of the truly rousing aspects of the performances were the nervous but happy smiles that flashed across the students’ faces now and then. I recall one girl who was visibly shaking with anxiety, and yet every so often a beatific smile would light up her face and her words would burn with passion. Then there was the boy who, despite being seriously challenged in some areas of social polish, thoroughly astonished us with his amiable deportment and friendly sophistication, constantly smiling as he smoothly moved through his presentation. These were hours of acute stress for these children, but, as so often happens, the intensity of the situation only served to magnify their achievement. A psychologist friend tells me that acute stress can be a productive element in our lives, and the magnificent performances by the 8th grade students served as proof of that truth. Diamonds are only made under great pressure, and these valiant students became diamonds yesterday. Perhaps that’s why the classroom seemed to be especially bright all day long.

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