This week has been the first week of exams. Exams are the period at the end of the complex and rambling sentence that is the school year. This metaphor strains with the weight of all it tries to contain, for sure: a sentence cannot contain a school year – it would take some other literary form I fear hasn’t been invented yet – something both mature and childlike, something both operatic and unplugged.
For me, too, it is a week of speeches. I regularly say how grateful I am to be able to say a few words that recognize the substance of occasions that matter to the life of the school. Such occasions remind us we are small parts of something much larger than we are, something evolving and organic. The School is a creature whose character is shaped by compelling the best in us to prevail over the not so good in us, a creature that contains both sides of this character in its embrace. We are all human, after all, and a family as far as possible.
Sentences, creatures, families: such metaphors and analogies by their nature will fray in the hands of people who like to pick away at their edges. One hopes in using them that they convey an essence that is nevertheless true in spite of more petty objections. To say the life of a school year can be a sentence suggests it has some order and structure that makes it intelligible. To say the creatures in it form a family suggests relationships and values that we choose instead of less ambitious alternatives.
This week has been crammed with more climactic moments of the school year than could possibly be enumerated here. Anyone who reads this blog will have been part of some of them, in the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools. I am amazed, yet I know, how quickly the students move on to the next thing – their summer, their friends, the trip they are taking, what they are doing tonight. Exams do bring things to a bit of a close, but no period can really terminate the sentence that is the life of the School. No point final.