Current position(s) at GA?
Upper School English teacher
Number of years overall at GA (including this year)?
34 years. It really feels like I just got here. This has been a great way to spend a life. I get to talk about ideas with cool kids. GA is a beautiful place. There are nice people here. I have had lots of jobs here and never had to call a moving van. I am blessed.Why have you chosen to stay at GA?
I started teaching at GA in September 1982 and I have never missed a day of work, including when I was ill. For what I do, nothing has changed too much. We read, think, write, discuss. The truth is, you don’t really need technology to do that, and sometimes it just gets in the way. It’s a blessing sometimes to come to English class because they don’t need technology. We get to TALK about interesting ideas.
The biggest change in the classroom has been the clientele of the school. Students and parents were not as academically involved back in the day. Now it’s rare that you don’t get a kid who doesn’t want to be challenged. Our school’s selectivity has gotten much stronger. There are very talented kids coming in at our entry points. We have 42 new kids coming into the 9th grade next year who are all really bright and talented. I think the influx of new bodies makes the place more interesting in blending the groups, and it certainly helps us compete in the Inter-Ac. There is a big difference in the quality of the experience for grownups as well as kids.
What do you most enjoy about teaching at GA?
I laugh every day. There is never a day goes by where something funny doesn’t happen, which is pretty awesome. There is enough freedom to create situations that are pure fun. There are some very creative faculty who design stuff to get the kids excited about coming here every day. The biggest fight in my family (five GA graduates) was who was going to sit in the front seat on the way to school.
What do you hope to provide to students in your classes and what do you hope they take away?
I hope to provide an interesting environment where they think they are growing as people and not just English students. I think they take that away plus some tools to express themselves about the things that we talk about. I am fortunate that I am in touch with many alumni, especially through lacrosse. When I get an email that starts “Something that just happened reminded me of your course…” is pretty awesome. There is a giant family loop now where I am teaching children of the children that I had already. I don’t like those kids; they remind me how old I am.
What do you value about the home/school partnership?
GA provides a wonderful option for the parents to dip into the school as much as they want. Conference Day is a good example. These parents have been present and around, so you aren’t talking to the parents about their kid the student, you are talking to them about their kid the human being. I don’t feel like I am talking to a strange set of parents, it’s more like hanging out with friends talking about a great kid. I have always felt like that here.What is a classroom activity unique to you?
I tell stories that I HOPE people like to hear. I try to strike a balance between pushing and being rigorous and at the same time being chill. What’s the biggest lesson you have learned from your students?
There have been so many lessons. I guess the biggest lesson is that no matter how many times you do something, the kids are always different. I am teaching the same thing this year as last year, yet some kid is going to hear it differently. It is important to be in tune to the effect you have on them. I have also learned that when a 35 year-old says something to a kid, it is completely different than when it comes from a 55 year-old. Those lessons are perceived differently depending on the messenger.
What GA tradition do you enjoy most?
I like Flag Raising. The event gives you a sense of history of the school and a visual of the full spectrum of students here. I like a lot of the House System stuff; a lot of good comes from that. I like the way the school says goodbye to people at the annual Faculty/Staff Breakfast. It is wonderful to be at a school where the administration knows that it’s not just a profession, it’s a life. I tell new faculty that GA is like golden handcuffs. I have had opportunities to go other places, but because I had my own kids here and I didn’t want them to go anywhere else, I stayed. Once you are in the system the trick is to stay grateful. There is good school spirit, and we get to see the students we teach in action outside of the classroom. When you step back and see the people who spent their lives here, it is ridiculously joyous.