Thoughts on Leaving
Thoughts on Leaving
Earlier this spring, someone would occasionally ask me, “So are you counting the days?” And I have to say, until very recently, I was not. Years ago, Kim Marshall, a former Boston principal and now editor of the Marshall Memo, coined the phrase “Hyperactive Superficial Principal Syndrome” to describe how principals can let “busy” get in the way of attending to the important matters. Well HSPS kept me from attending to my own transition.
Then, at the evening performance of the Gr. 6-8 Cabaret in May, I was standing in the back just loving the show and seeing the kids for a second time. And it hit me. After more than 35 years, I’m not going to be working with kids next year. What was I thinking?
Then came Memorial Day Community Meeting. For over 20 years, I have led an outdoor Memorial Day program of some sort. This was going to be the last one.
A week ago Friday, I was surprised by a Chorus Flash Mob. To the tune of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” they sang “We will miss you…” so beautifully. I cried for the first time.
Last Sunday’s Fun Run. Seeing all those kids wearing the specially designed purple t-shirts. Thank you, Jin Suk and Keith Carson. What an honor!
It has been a good run, but the race is coming to an end.
When long-time Kindergarten teacher Nao Rosenberg retired three years ago, I quoted philosopher and educator John Dewey who said, “To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.” I thought that quote described perfectly Nao’s outlook on her work. She loved being a Kindergarten teacher – and it showed.
Well, for me, I have loved being a principal. And I hope it has shown. I love working with children and families over time. I love the intellectual stimulation of working with adults. I became a principal early on in my career. And I have had the good fortune to “secure the opportunity” to do work that fit me well. And as a result, I have found much satisfaction – and happiness. Who could ask for more?
I feel fortunate that 12 of my 34 years of service in public education have been in Brookline – 4 as a teacher and 8 as a principal.
I taught for 7 years – first at the Batchelder School in North Reading, where I met Sara-Jane, my wife and partner of 30 years. I then came to Brookline for the first time to teach third grade at the Heath School.
I have been a principal for 27 years in four schools, beginning with a small school in Winchester and then opening a new school in Lexington, working with faculty and parents to bring children and families from three sending schools together into a new school community. From there I moved to the Murkland School in Lowell, among the lowest performing schools in the state. My six years in Lowell were at once the most challenging and rewarding of my career. Then 8 years ago, I was given the opportunity to come back to Brookline and lead the Lawrence School. I am so glad I did. It has been a wonderful way to finish my career.
Lawrence is in a stable and strong place right now, including three particular strengths:
- A strong sense of community for children and families
- A focus on children and their diverse learning needs
- A collaborative culture of reflective practice for faculty
As I wrote in November, one person does not make a school. I hope that I have contributed in some small way to supporting a strong school culture, but the real strength of this school comes from the teachers who have the expertise and the mindset that make this school a special place and from the families who care so deeply about this school and their children’s learning.
In writing about what constitutes “good work,” Howard Gardner suggests answering three questions:
- Does the work fit your values?
- Does it evoke excellence; are you highly competent and effective at what you do?
- Does it bring you that subjective barometer of engagement, joy?
My answer to the first question is yes, the work has fit my values. It has enabled me to use my abilities in service to others. I will leave it to others to answer the second question about competence. And to the third question, I can say unequivocally, yes, the work has brought me engagement and joy – each and every day.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve this wonderful school community and to engage in “good work.” I will miss the community and all of you tremendously.