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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Building on a Foundation of Imagination

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Building on a Foundation of Imagination

Student Commencement Speaker Jaymie Stein

To quote Maxine Greene, Professor Emeritus, “By imagining, we are enabled to look at things, to think about things as if they were otherwise.”
In preparing for this ceremony, I had conversations with some of my students. The children were asked, “If you could, what message would you share with the world?” They agreed with Greene when, for example, Ellington, a fourth grader, said, “Use your imagination and let it flow.” Clara said, “Your instinct is your guide and art rules!”
 
I believe that Teachers College, as a place where people come to have meaningful experiences through learning, both as teachers and students, is also a place that has embedded imagination within the foundation of its buildings.
 
Sophie, a third grade student imagines life as it were otherwise when she told me, “We should have three periods of art instead of one” during our dialogue.
 
In my couple of years here, I have witnessed a countless number of people take their photograph with the statue of John Dewey that sits in the hallway upon entering our main entrance. Dewey believed that education must actively engage students in discovery, because learning occurs by doing. He believed in the community. The community was and continues to be at the center of a student’s education here at Teachers College. I work with the Harlem Children’s Zone as an AmeriCorps fellow. It is because of this work combined with theoretical readings and discussions, that Dewey and Greene’s philosophies are carried with me and with my classmates.
 
Sometimes I walk the old hallowed halls at Teachers College, and I imagine quotes on the walls. As Dewey said and I imagine reading on the Zankel hall, “Just as a flower which seems beautiful and has color but no perfume, so are the fruitless words of the person who speaks them but does them not.” People come to Teachers College to make a difference.
 
In closing, I’d like to quote a friend, a nine year old who offers very simple and poignant advice to us new graduates. Salim believes that, “The most important thing that adults can do for children of our world is to love them and show them the ropes.” I believe, that as Teachers College graduates, we have a lot to offer the world. No doubt, we will!
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