Lessons on the Road!
I am sitting here in Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with Todd Ormiston getting ready to get on a red-eye so that we can get back to Bethel in time for class on Friday. As too often seems to be the case, we both have middle seats for the all night cross country ride. (Ugh!) I hope that my class will go easy on me as I may be a bit ornery!
We have been out here on one of those glamorous, three day trips to attend a conference at which we were able to catch up with many educational consultants. Al Ordway used to talk about shaking “three hands for Gould”. Over the last two and a half days, we have shaken hundreds of hands and had almost as many hugs!
I always find these gatherings stimulating for two reasons: First, 48 hours with hundreds of other educators results in there being lots of ideas being shared and discussed. We all challenge each other to stretch our thinking. Second, there are hundreds of other secondary schools and programs represented here, and it feels very good to be representing Gould amongst all of those schools. It is always worthwhile to benchmark what we are doing at Gould against other programs, and there are a lot of people who are pretty excited about what is going on at Gould.
There was another great surprise today. Yesterday I had looked at the program for the conference and had been somewhat surprised if not dismayed to see that the keynote speaker would be Henry Winkler, best known as the ‘Fonz’ from Happy Days. What might Fonzie have to offer that would be worthwhile enough to trump walking on the beach or hitting Beverly Hills?
It turns out that Winkler gave the best and most entertaining speaches that I had heard in many years. Growing up, Winkler was as he described it in the bottom 3% of his class in NYC. He constantly struggled and as a result was criticized and hated school. He found his passion in acting, but was discouraged even there by his parents and others. He shared some German phrase that his family used with him that translates into “dumb dog”. It was only after Winkler had achieved some success and was educating his own son that he realized that he suffered a significant learning difference. At age 31 as Winkler listened to his son’s diagnosis, he recognized many of his own challenges.
Winkler obviously overcame significant challenges and found incredible success. When asked how he had managed to do so well, he attributed his success to dogged tenacity. He has achieved great things not only as an actor and a producer, but today is an advocate for education, the arts and an accomplished author (and parent)! He also is one wonderful speaker. That’s not bad for a fellow who was written off by many of his teachers and his own parents…That’s tenacity at work.
A fourth lesson was the reminder not to discount a person just because of your prior impressions. I was guilty of this shortsighted-ness and almost missed a compelling talk. Winkler, with his horrendous academic profile, today is a speaker that any of us would hope to be. He has found success in many ways and overcome huge obstacles. He was inspiring and more compelling than even playing on the beach.
Oh, no. We have been called to board and I will not get this Glog posted before we take off.
6:30 AM Friday – I rejoin this Glog entry now from Dulles Airport in DC where we make our connection. There is always a bit of a pall in the airport at this hour as most of the passengers making their way through the terminal have just gotten off overnight flight. We try to avoid each other until we have managed to wake up. A shower would look mighty fine right now!
I can’t offer photos this week. I hoped to bring you some pictures, but the weather was most overcast and the only image I could offer was a tired and sweaty looking Todd on a bluff overlooking the Santa Monica pier. You will have to use your imagination as a I am doing him a favor in not including it!
It’s back to school this morning where we will jump into exam preparation. It’s been a great term as the Human Geography class has covered numerous important issues in Africa and had many engaging discussions on topics including Apartheid, genocide, oppression and the poverty-hunger-disease-education cycle. The students are making some progress with their ‘Water For Life’ efforts while and have just handed in some really good papers. I look forward to finishing off the presentations today.
Have a great weekend. I will aim to return with some pictures next week. By the time that I write again, we should be approaching the last exam, getting grades done and the students will be about ready to head out for break. The first term has gone quickly.