03 May 2019

adiós buen invierno

A winter Eden...
...lifts existence on a plane of snow
One level higher than the earth below,
One level nearer heaven overhead
- Robert Frost

01 May 2019

Archival footage: Request for reassignment

It has been one year to the day, give-or-take, since I sent the email reprinted below to my school district's superintendent after a "long dark night of the soul," asking to be released from my job as an elementary school principal, a position that I did not initially seek for myself or apply to, but rather was drafted into. I nevertheless held and worked hard at the job, as hard as I've truthfully ever worked at anything, for several years, each one filled with its own special sort of arduous labor, and replete with seemingly unending rancor and contention from both parents and staff members alike.  

Being granted a reprieve from this work was followed by an immediate and confirming sense of relief which has not abated in nearly a year.  Unequivocally, I was never meant to be a school leader.  I am a teacher by training and, speaking as a professional, teaching remains the principle domain of my heart.  On one of my last days in office, I wrote these words to the faculty and staff of the school I struggled to shepherd adequately for seven years, "[W]e all know, I was really only ever the interim principal [here], holding a spot between [the principal I succeeded] and the next "guy" while trying not to break the place in the meantime.  I'm glad we've come to a point where I can step away, confident in knowing that I really did work super hard everyday to do my best by [this school] while you needed me to, to return to a role that's far less contentious and much more in line with what I feel I've actually been called to do with my life: teach."

Looking back today, on the first anniversary of this thoroughly consequential, life-changing decision, having now spent the better part of a full year back in the classroom contentedly teaching fifth grade as I did for so many years before entering the principal's office, and despite the nearly 40% reduction in salary I incurred, I nonetheless still feel only an abiding sense of well-being in my soul about all these things, which confirms to me that stepping down as principal shall forever be charted among the best decisions of my life.


This is not my letter of resignation.  Put quite simply, I cannot afford for it to be such at this time, nor do I desire in any way to ultimately sever my 25-year working relationship with our school district.  But my heart is heavy, and has grown increasingly so of late. And, as I now find myself propelled once again toward another sleepless night wrestling with my thoughts, I hope instead to use this moment of sound-minded wakefulness to make a simple and sincere appeal to you in an email this morning.  The hour is late, so I will try my best to be brief.

After much deliberation, having spent the last seven years in the principal's office, I can say with great confidence: I no longer can endure this work.  When first I was drafted out of our teacher corps as our school's interim principal, it was to fill an unanticipated gap in leadership that was, in the near term, likely to be unable to be filled.  When, sometime later, I was officially appointed to the role by the superintendent and the board, it was with just one objective in mind: to lead until I felt my leadership was no longer tenable or of benefit to the school's community.  I feel I have arrived at this point, that this school has surpassed its need to be lead by me, that it both craves and deserves new vital leadership.  In view of this realization, I would like to step down at the end of my contract in June.  Pragmatically and financially speaking, however, I am not willing, nor am I able, to proffer my resignation from the school district at this time.  It is, in fact, in no way my my desire to do so.  Public school teaching is undeniably my life's calling, a pursuit to which I happily dedicated the first 18 years of my career, and I feel I still have many meaningful contributions to make in this regard.

I am aware that, in the past, district superintendents have provided assistance in reassigning similarly exhausted principals to currently vacant teaching positions for which they were qualified within other district schools.  I would like to appeal for this sort of assistance and consideration to you at this time: Please allow me to gracefully leave my work as a principal but retain my longstanding relationship with the distrit by reassigning me to a teaching position within the greater district school community.  I have truly enjoyed working with all of my administrative cohorts over the years and am confident when I tell you, I would be happy to work for any of them in the future... and that, given all that I have encountered and overcome during seven years in the principal's office, I am likely to be a reformed and exemplary classroom teacher going forward. I will happily take on any new classroom teaching role in the district, in any building in the district, if you are willing to grant me this request.

It has been my great honor to serve as the principal at this school since 2011, and likewise to work as a teacher in our district since 1993.  I do not wish in any way to sever my relationship with the district at this time, nonetheless, I hope you will carefully consider my appeal and allow me to be reassigned into a teaching role beginning at the onset of the 2018-2019 school year.

Thank you.

04 February 2018

18 July 2017

Mid-summertime and the livin' is easy

Left my shoes under my desk on the last day of the school year, just found them there yesterday, and hadn't missed them for even a minute.

Thus far, with some three weeks to go, summer has been just what I needed it to be: the opposite of work, filled with good rides with good friends, time spent together as a family, visits each week from faraway friends and family passing through town, and ample quantities of cheap hot grilled food and cheaper cold Tecates consumed in good company, and a bit of new ink for good measure.


05 June 2017

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

As spring turns to summer, my father, dead now for a full year, continues to occupy my thoughts almost daily.

Not because I am sad that he is gone, though I am.
Not because I am unmoored without him, though I might be.
He is with me, in the center of my mind, because I cannot seek his wise counsel, his particularly prescient insights, in the midst of these trying times.

Our culture stands on the sharp precipice of history.  We have been here before, surely, though perhaps never before like this.  Yet my father, regardless of circumstance, always seemed to know what was going on.  Would that he could tell me of such things now.

I know he would say things like, "It's a coup, John.  Follow the money."

And, "Never listen to what they say. Watch what they do."

But I cannot know these things as a certainty, because he is, put succinctly, no longer here to tell them to me as he once was... when we sat together on awkward chairs in his makeshift back-bedroom office space smelling of old man's feet and cologne and spearmint gum, surrounded by cropped and tint-corrected family pictures, and a framed-lifetime of awards and achievements, three-dozen useless empty software boxes, and the latest iteration of his always dumb-but-faithful dog asleep on the well-worn rug at our feet.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And yet, even without him, still my life goes on.

 And it is good.