Sunday, June 24, 2007

There's A Height Beyond Skyscrapers

I was almost a bartender.

That would have been different.

A lot would not have happened. I would not have had the same conversation with [Todd Anderson] today. I would not have paid the Mets-A’s gem only half attention because I was writing Framework Session questions aligned with the Teaching for Student Achievement (TfSA) rubric. I would not have written so little. I would not have abstained so much, from so much. I would not feel that deep-pit good when St. Ignatius’s famous ditty kicks through my mind. I would not know as much about generosity, or courage, or what the East 408 hills look like in a freezing bright sunshine, their tops dashed with snow.

I would not have spend these last five years working with the POY.

He is no longer the principal of our school, gone on to a new challenge, an attempt to do at the high school level what he set in motion for middle schools. Gone with him is some of that high purpose time, where motivation and innovation kept us up past the tree-line, in the alpines of our work. Along the way there’s been so many almost-goodbyes it’s damn-near comedic: hints and clues, then the initial announcement, then Chaminade retreat, the last staff meeting, graduation, last-day-of-school-plaque presentation, the party later that night, and for all that, I went into school the other day, and he’s working with the V-POY, still trying to push us forward and lay the groundwork for the smoothest transition in the history of public education, and we’re talking about 700 things, while phones are answered, budgets analyzed, and I type a plan for fluency curriculum and show-off some cool document I got from TNTP.

If I were as good a reporter as my buddy [Victory], I’d hit ya with the defining anecdote that illuminates the guy in sharp, clear lines, illustrates the essential aspects of character and influence, one that is informative in this way, but entertaining, too. I would retell it in great detail, build an entire essay off the crisp details in the recollection and revelation of personality. I'd tell ya what it all means, all that he has meant, but I can’t. I don’t have anything that clear and clean, just a jumbled collage of recollections that probably don’t paint a picture anywhere near as lucid as I’d like. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe I don’t want to tell stories.

I could spit out retellings and rememberings, frame them within a bulleted list of lessons learned -- all the myriad ways I became better. I could do that, and it’d be a pretty good piece of writing, the way, probably, these things are supposed to go. I could do a repetition cadence thing (Thank you for…) that would probably get to a lot of the truth. I could explain how he was that one great, inspiring teacher I searched for and never found, never until now, when I try to be that person to others. I could do a lot of these things, but the truth is, I’ve been trying to write something like that for two months, and I can’t. I just don't have it.

The experience of working with him is intertwined with everything I’ve done in education. It will be the foundation of everything I go on to do. There’s something ugly about picking it apart, like a med student and his cadaver. Man, I don’t need to see the brush-strokes; let me stand back and dig on the art.

On the wall, heavy frame, roped off:
These have been the defining years of my life, when I was pushed and driven deep, when you gave me the gifts of perspective and conversation, made me think hard and clear, when we worked to harvest something fragile and beautiful and real. Thank you for the opportunity given and the time taken, for everything that came before, all that will come after.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Dan Meyer said...

Er, which high school was that again?

7:40 PM  
Anonymous H. said...

Wow. Given the degree to which you are an inspiration, a beacon and a thinker among teachers, pointing to the POY as a defining influence on your work is very high praise already. If you ever do get around to filling in any specifics about what he did right it probably would make a very worthwhile read.

9:09 PM  
Blogger happychyck said...

I'm with h. Specifics would be a worthwhile read, but I understand how sometimes when you actually talk about it or put it in words, it's just not as profound or it takes away the magic or something like that...It is wonderful that you've had such a mentor. It makes all the difference in a teacher.

I've tagged you for a light-hearted little meme over at my blog. Stop on by!

10:04 AM  
Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

How lucky you are. Really.

I'm not envious. I'm grateful they actually exist.

8:39 AM  

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