A Little More About Robin Williams

In the fall, I spent a few blogs reviewing new television shows that The Cinnamon Girl, the kids and I were sampling. I had occasion to remember this when I read an account today of Robin Williams’ suicide that suggested that the cancellation of the show might have played a role in Williams’ depression and subsequent taking of his own life. The show allowed him to be close to him and to his family, helped bring in money and kept him out of film to a large extent which was something the star wished. he didn’t relish the emotional commitment that films took on him.

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In addition to his other, well documented, problems, faced with, potentially, mounting a new television series was, apparently, too much of a hill for Williams to climb.

The show itself was fair. It was pretty uneven in its early episodes and Williams was, far-and-away, the best part of the proceedings.

My original review can be found HERE.

I am still thinking about Williams. The Entertainment Weekly that featured him on its cover is still on my nightstand…

ET Williams

Entertainment Weekly Cover August 22 Issue

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Teachers Are Leaders Quote and Comment of the Week: August 25 – 31, 2014

Weekly during the 2014-2015 school year, And There Came A Day will begin the week with a quote and quick thought about Ignatian education.

Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.
~ St. Ignatius Loyola

There are a hundred different decisions teachers have to make in the span of any given day, any given class period, any given contact with students. Much depends on what teachers decide to do. It’s important – always – for teachers to remember that they are not making these decisions alone.

Picture from ignatianspirituality.com.

Picture from ignatianspirituality.com.

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“So, He’s A Teacher?”

I was going to begin this post with the following phrase: “I am no longer a high school teacher” but that is not true.

I will always be a high school teacher. I am simply not teaching high school for the foreseeable future and, though I may never teach a high school class again, I will always and forever consider myself a high school teacher. I guess that’s what teaching for over 20 years does to someone. That kind of tenure creates identity and my identity as a high school teacher feels solidly fixed.

What is true, though, about this year as I embark on my amazing new job as Vice President of the Jesuit Secondary Association, is that I am not currently teaching high school students. I am not heading back into the classroom this autumn.

This is a change.

For the last 22 falls, I’ve been up during the night before school, tossing-and-turning over the details of the day to come, running through the checklist of what has been done, what needs to be done and what can wait to be done. I have taught every year of my career, even the last 12 when I served as an administrator.

It’s okay to not be teaching. Really, it is. I will miss it, to be sure, but I am not in a deep depression about it.

But there is one thing I should admit. For over half of those teaching years, I’ve been lucky enough to introduce my students to the novel A Prayer for Owen Meany and, on reflection, I think I’ve been engaged in the book for six of the last seven years of my career. In many of those years, I read the book (or almost all the book) aloud to the students, asking them to follow along in a classroom set I kept in the back of the room.

A Prayer for Owen Meany

I am sad about not teaching Owen this year. That’s true. I love the book. It is absolutely my favorite novel of all that I have read and I have read more than a few. I will miss teaching it, very, very much.

Of course, I can read it myself at any time. I can pick it up any day I wish and live for a while in the world John Irving created. And I know that I will. But reading a book is not sharing a book.

I will miss the sharing.

In the novel, the upper crust, upper-class grandmother of Johnny Wheelwright, one of the novel’s two protagonists is given opportunity to remark on what she thinks of educators: ” ‘So he’s a teacher?’ my grandmother asked. This was borderline acceptable to Harriet Wheelwright.” 

I will always be a teacher and the vocation is far more than “borderline acceptable” to me.

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Teachers Are Leaders Quote And Comment Of The Week: August 18 – 24, 2014

Weekly during the 2014-2015 school year, And There Came A Day will begin the week with a quote and quick thought about Ignatian education.

Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.
~ St. Ignatius Loyola

What a hard thing this is to do, especially in the first week of school when teachers feel the pressures of starting well, but it’s so very important to listen to what students need.

Good teachers listen.

Good leaders listen.

It’s the right way to start.

St. Ignatius Loyola

St. Ignatius Loyola

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Robin Williams’ Death

I have nothing profound to say concerning the death of Robin Williams. I enjoyed him in his films, especially in Good Morning, Vietnam and The World According to Garp.

I, like many, many others watched Mork and Mindy (I even remembered it was a spinoff of Happy Days … how many folks remember that? I didn’t, and I cannot believe I am admitting this, but I had forgotten that Mork was once a Denver Broncos cheerleader!

Photo from the Denver Post. Original caption: Mork from Ork, a popular TV alien from outer space, cavorts in Mile High Stadium in a Pony Express costume before the Denver Bronco-New England Patriot football game Sunday afternoon. Mork, played by Robin Williams, wasn’t spaced out — he was taking part in the filming of the Nov. 25 episode in which he wants to join the all-female cheerleading squad. Mork lives in Boulder in the TV show. (John Sunderland, The Denver Post)

Photo from the Denver Post. Original caption: Mork from Ork, a popular TV alien from outer space, cavorts in Mile High Stadium in a Pony Express costume before the Denver Bronco-New England Patriot football game Sunday afternoon. Mork, played by Robin Williams, wasn’t spaced out — he was taking part in the filming of the Nov. 25 episode in which he wants to join the all-female cheerleading squad. Mork lives in Boulder in the TV show. (John Sunderland, The Denver Post)

Of all the remembrances of Robin Williams today, the one I was really struck by details his friendship with Christopher Reeve. Yes, that Christopher Reeve. The two met as acting students at Julliard. The Daily Beast has a great story about it HERE.

The loss of Robin Williams is tragic, to be sure. All life lost to violence, self inflicted or otherwise, is. I pray his family can find peace with his death. I pray those caught up in any cycle of violence get help.

I saw a comedy concert of his once and Robin Williams could be cutting and vile, but he could also be sweet and simple. I will remember him as this:

 

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Thanks, Dad… I Still Stay To Move The Chairs

It rarely occurs to me, at the end of a gathering at church, a meeting at school or a conference break out session to leave the whatever room I have been in before all the chairs are picked up and put away. I often grab the chairs near me, the table at which I’ve been sitting, throw away the trash, recycle the recyclables.

It feels very built-in. Pre-programmed and I know from where the impulse comes. It’s more a nurture thing than a nurture thing. It comes from my parents.

It comes from my dad.

Mom and Dad would take my sisters and me to all kinds of church functions when we were kids and, inevitably, after each one, we’d have to wait for them to clean the place up and to pick up the chairs. As I got older – big enough to handle a chair or two on my own – I began to pitch in. Over thirty-five years later, I haven’t found a reason to stop.

My Dad died three years ago today (You can see other thought about him HERE, HERE and HERE). I think about him daily and I could blog paragraph after paragraph about the lessons I learned from him – a few bad, most good, some a little bit of both – and thought to do that today. But somehow, in some simple way, staying to move the chairs, long after everyone else had made the gate sums up who my father was.

Dad always stayed to move the chairs.

I love you, Dad.

I love you, Dad.

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Goodbye, Regis Jesuit or It Was 20 Years Ago Today

It wasn’t 20 years ago today, but it was close.

Leaving Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland where I had taught for two years right out of college for my alma mater in Colorado was a pretty easy decision. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my years teaching there. I very much did. But home called. Loudly.

2012-01-09 22.16.38

In my classroom at Bishop McNamara… this was the spring of 1994 and I already had secured the interview at Regis Jesuit.

I was hired at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, CO in the spring of 1994 and started work there that August.

I was interviewed by the English Department Chair who, in 1988 when I was a senior at Regis Jesuit, moderated the yearbook. He would later become one of my most trusted colleagues.

I was hired by an assistant principal who, in 1985 when I was a sophomore, taught me Algebra II (sorry I was such a terrible math student). He would later become my principal.

I would teach alongside the very people who inspired me to go into education in the first place and calling them by their first names was a hurdle I thought I would never, ever clear.

In 1995, The Magister, my best friend for now and forever, was hired to teach Latin. He would become godfather to my children, best man at my wedding and brother I never had.

I can hardly enumerate all the friends I made during my two decades at Regis Jesuit. Trying would be pointless.

Some of the memories carved with them, however, are easy to list: “Open Mic” nights at a rotating series of apartments and starter homes, marriages, dinners out, movies, quick vacations and work trips, The Facultones cover band, disciplinary boards, Raiderfest, moderating Student Council and laughing all the while, arguing about whether life exists on other planets following going out to see Contact (“you’d have to be the dumbest person on the planet to believe there’s no life anywhere but here!”), Raiders Roost, dealing with the deaths of parents, the new life of children, opening a new division of the school, frustrations with the work, joys in the work, prefecting dances and Homecomings and games, trips with students, liturgies, retreats, “making policy,” that trip to St. Louis, drafting documents, writing curriculum, doing investigations of students, catching kids cutting school, “are you saying, when this is all over, I will be apologizing to you for accusing you of drinking?”, committee work, Formation Team, hirings and firings, the ups and downs of teaching, pranking one another mercilessly, bitching about “the administration,” joining the administration and being bitched about, late nights and early mornings at work, a Socratic Seminar on The Scarlet Letter I will never, ever forget, teaching A Prayer for Owen Meany and, of course, the students, the thousands of students…

Always the students. What an impossible blessing it is to work with teenagers. So many students will remain with me and so many have taught me more than I could ever have taught them.

A selfie with the Girls Division Class of 2014 at my last graduation.

A selfie with the Girls Division Class of 2014 at my last graduation.

Teaching in a Jesuit school has been one of the biggest gifts of my life.

I am thankful for the love, for the opportunities, for the community, for the friendships.

I am forever changed by it.

How do I know? How can I say it? God has blessed me so abundantly in these past decades.

I would have two children during my years at Regis Jesuit and gain a bonus son through marriage.

Sous Chef, HJ jr and Stretch.

Sous Chef, HJ jr and Stretch.

In 2007, I would marry a brilliant and lovely ex-lawyer who dazzled her students with her knowledge and dazzled me with that and, well, everything else.

The Cinnamon Girl.

The Cinnamon Girl.

I have been teacher, Department Chair, Dean, Assistant Principal, Acting Principal, Choir Moderator, Service Director… titles and roles and responsibilities that allowed me to grow and change and learn.

I have been the luckiest of people because I have been a teacher.

And, today, it ends.

I am moving on to a role I greet with eager anticipation: I will serve as one of the Vice Presidents of the Jesuit Secondary Education Association. I am humbled to assume the position and excited to begin the work.

But, today, I look back and consider the years at RJ and am so very happy to have been a part of it.  So blessed. And so ready for the next step.

John Irving wrote in A Prayer for Owen Meany “If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”

I love high school eduation. I love Jesuit education. I love this mission.

Because of this 20 year history, because I have a wonderful family and the most amazingly supportive wife a man could ever have, I look back and then, quickly, ahead with faith and courage.

 

 

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