Keep Up with the Class, Please

In which Daniel revels in the fruits of his labor.

To my dear reader,

The universe, being old and full of mysteries, is prone to speak obscurely and tell you its secrets in the most confusing manner. The following story, in four parts, is an example of such an occurrence:


At our final meeting of the Spring 2014 semester, my a cappella group Underground Sound was debriefing over the semester – my first as a co-director alongside my friend Lisa Hawkins. With me and Lisa in the front of the classroom and the other members sitting in desks, we had spent the past half hour trading ideas and feedback on the ways that Lisa and I had run the group (in a successful, albeit crazed and panicked, manner). There was a momentary lull in the conversation, and as I stared out of the windows of the classroom into the dark campus outside, I had a sudden thought.

“When I first became a co-director,” I said, “I didn’t anticipate enjoying it all that much. I thought I would just do it to get the job done. Looking back on it now, though…” I struggled to assemble the right words. “Looking back now, I realize that doing this – teaching and coaching and helping you all grow – that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life”.

The good people of Underground Sound, Spring 2014.

The good people of Underground Sound, Spring 2014.


An hour before our performance at the Fall 2014 A Cappella Extravaganza, Underground Sound had gathered in a small classroom beside the door to the concert hall. As we awaited the end of the performance preceding ours, Lisa and I attempted – unsuccessfully – to corral the group into one space. It seemed impossible, however, to ensure the presence of all thirteen of us in one location, and every time one person was accounted for, another seemed to vanish. Sighing, I turned to one of our new members, a small and reserved sophomore named Marisa Christensen who, alongside her quiet nature, had a glorious voice and an unprecedented level of dedication.

“Come on folks,” I muttered partly to her and partly to myself. “Get on top of your lives.” I rolled my eyes at the other members as they scrambled in and out of the room. “Well,” I grimaced at her, repeating something I’d said to her on multiple occasions, “At least YOU’RE keeping up with the class”.

The good people of Underground Sound, Fall 2014.

The good people of Underground Sound, Fall 2014.


In the wake of our final Fall 2014 performance at the school’s holiday celebration Mistletoast, Underground Sound had gathered at the house of my co-director, Lisa Hawkins, for a Secret Santa.  We had gone around the circle and I was the last of the group to receive my gift.  Holding up the white bag stuffed with red tissue, I read aloud the clue on the side: “From someone that’s always keeping up with the class”. I turned to Marisa Christensen – who was sitting on the couch beside me and had also, coincidentally, been the first to open her Secret Santa gift from me. “You?” I cried in delight, and she burst into laughter as I swooped down to hug her. I reached into the red tissue to pull out this:


If you are observant, you may notice something odd about this Christmas ornament: a portion of the apple is missing. Despite what one might think, this was not part of the ornament’s original design. This is a characteristic of the ornament because, after placing the ornament on the arm of the couch, I reached into the bag to pull out my second gift – a box of scrumptious holiday teas – and in my frenzied delight, knocked the ornament to the ground. “Oh my goodness,” I moaned to Marisa, “You got me such a sweet gift and I IMMEDIATELY broke it like an idiot. I am so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Marisa laughed, waving the apology aside.

“Oh!” Lisa Hawkins exclaimed as she examined the now imperfect gift. “I thought it was intentional designed like that – as if a bite had been taken out of it”.

“You know what?” I said, taking the ornament back and examining it with resignation, “I’m going to take it as a symbol from the universe of the imperfect beauty of teaching. Sound like a plan, Marisa?”

Grinning, she replied “Sounds like a plan.”


On my last day on campus for the Fall 2014 term, I was part way through packing in preparation for winter break, and was admiring Marisa’s gifts to me once. “Best not to take the ornament home with me,” I thought to myself, “Lest I break it once more”. Smiling at the sweetness of the gift, I traced a finger along the words “Number One Teacher” before looking at the attached tag for the first time. It was not until that moment that I saw this:


Well played, universe. Well played.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert