Leaving El Dorado
I’ve told my colleagues and my kids, and now I’m telling you. I’ve accepted a position for next year as Dean of Students and teaching 8th grade English at The Congressional Schools of Virginia, an independent preschool-8 school in nearby Falls Church.
Like Voltaire’s Candide (blogged about by some of my tenth graders this year), I am leaving a fabled land of riches. Diamonds aren’t strewn on the ground like pebbles here at TJ, but you can’t spit without hitting a remarkable student or teacher.
I’m blown away daily by the eagerness and ability of these kids, and by the willingness of my colleagues to engage in dialogue with the sincere goal of making this the best of all possible educational worlds. I wish that, like Candide, I could leave with a string of large red pack sheep stuffed with priceless yellow mud and other rarities of High Tech High.
My destination, fortunately, has its own riches, tucked away on a lush forty-acre campus complete with horses, a swimming pool and a ropes course. Just like at TJ, there’s a dynamic leader, a diverse student body, and a committed faculty. What draws me is the chance to take on a new role in my career. After fifteen years in the classroom I want to help run a school. A nice raise and an entrepreneurial environment that doesn't exist in public schools sweeten the pot.
Being at TJ has upped my game. Which is a good thing, because in addition to the challenges in moving from public to private, secondary to primary, and teacher to administrator, my new job will include starting an academic summer school and developing a program for student teachers in collaboration with a local university.
In my spare time, there is a 1 in 16 chance that I will train for the New York Marathon (thus 15 in 16 chances that I’ll collapse on the back deck with a beer). If my twin brother and I don’t both get in via the online lottery, we’ll have to find some other way to observe our upcoming 40th birthday.
The Eduholic in me has been staying up nights composing an ode for the end of school luncheon. I’ll cherish memories like making a canoe with a Waterfall and eating lunch every day with my own 10th grade English teacher, Mary O’Brien, still going strong after 30+ years.
Meanwhile in the dad department, it’s pool time. I took my rambunctious three-year old to Target yesterday for a Spiderman swim singlet with so much flotation it makes him look more like the Hulk. We can now exhale when he runs around near the deep end filling his water rocket. And I feel warmed by the circle of life to see my seven-year old as a Bluefish, learning his strokes on the same swim team that was the center of my own young summers when I was a kid.
After all their adventures, Candide and his pals ended up exercising their talents at humble tasks from cooking to carpentry. “All events are linked together…” observes Pangloss, the hero’s irrepressible sidekick. “That is well put,” Candide observes, “but we must cultivate our garden.” And so I putter on, warm in the sun, to the next loamy patch.