Congratulations to Class 12.C!

When I first started teaching at Varga in the fall of 2017, one of my classes was the wonderful 9.C in the school’s bilingual program. I continued teaching them over the next two years, and one of the two sections continued with me this year as well. They graduated today.

They are full of intelligence, curiosity, and humor. We slogged through the textbooks together, read literature together, prepared Shakespeare performances, sang, and much more.

I remember visiting the school in September 2017, nearly two months before I moved here, and meeting this class. So when I began teaching them in November of the same year, we got going right away. Besides working from the textbook, we held a weekly News Day (where the students would perform a mock newscast in class), read and performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream (followed by Hamlet the next year), and had all kinds of interesting discussions.

In tenth grade, some of the students attended my philosophy elective, where we would read texts together—Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Buber, and others—and discuss the ideas.

In eleventh grade, for American civilization, we followed the textbook but also read poems, sang songs, listened to speeches. One of my sections read The Crucible by Arthur Miller. This was also the year when the class prepared a Christmas caroling show for the school.

This year, I had only one of the two sections, and we did a lot: in addition to preparing intensively for the exams, we read To Kill A Mockingbird and had lively discussions for which the students themselves prepared the questions.

But those were only my classes. The students were doing so much beyond them: learning other languages, other subjects; taking part in Model European Parliament, student government; playing instruments, performing in folk dance groups; taking part in competitions; forming relationships; learning magic tricks; figuring out life.

With Covid, we had online classes for several months last spring, then again from November to April of this year. They had different reactions to this, but whether they liked it or didn’t, they held up. It was great to return to school in person, though. I remember when we first started doing so, for small review sessions, a few weeks before the whole school went back. I could see what a difference it made to them too, how happy they were to be in a room together.

After many months, the time for their final exams arrived. This year, almost all of the subjects had written exams only, but we still held the oral Civilization exam, since there wasn’t a written counterpart. For weeks, the eight students taking this exam had been attending our review sessions. This morning, they came to the appointed room, prepared their topics, and gave presentations. A colleague and I held the examination; other colleagues and an exam supervisor took part in the proceedings. Ceremony surrounds these exams: the teachers meet early in the morning to establish the protocol, then the students enter the room, dressed for a formal occasion, then they leave until called in for their exam. At the end, the teachers confer, the supervisor gives a report, many documents are signed, and then the students, teachers, administrators, and testing supervisor gather for the closing ceremony, where the students receive their diplomas and prizes and present the teachers with gifts.

So that was the day.

Here is one of my fond memories from our Shakespeare rehearsals, in the spring of 2018.

And here is the finale of their final caroling performance (one out of many) in December 2019.

This afternoon, after the little graduation ceremony, I bought some groceries and headed home. I noticed that the Lipóti bakery had the class tableau in one of their windows.

Thank you, Class 12.C, for all that you brought to my classes and to the school. Best wishes with everything you hope and plan to do, and with all the surprises that come along the way.

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  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

    —Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.

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    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.
     

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.

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