I've taught third through seventh grades on Sundays, middle- and high-schoolers upon occasion, college and graduate school year round. I've taught in the corporate setting and throughout the community.
Ethics, creativity, writing, psychology, history, comedy, Holocaust, marketing, advertising...
I teach to live. I live to teach.
But, suddenly, unexpectedly, on February 25, 2008, something different happened.
Driving To Cleveland
I was on the way to Cleveland to have dinner with a client and friend, Phil.
Since I was going to Cleveland, I had also scheduled a speech at a Cleveland school, the legendary Laurel School, where the head of school is a dear classmate from college, Ann V. Klotz. (Ann was also the student director of Our Town back in 1981.)
Ann had arranged for me to speak to the entire Upper School about the Ethics of Speech. The day before, I'd asked Ann to give me as much time as possible. "Please don't waste time introducing me," I begged. "Just let me talk with them."
On the way, I called Ann to confirm. "Don't worry about my introducing you," Ann reported. "I introduced you this morning. I made it big. You'll have to live up to it."
But moments later, halfway to Cleveland, I received a call from Phil. "I'm sick with the flu," said Phil. "I'm going home. We can't have dinner tonight. Believe me: you don't want to have dinner with me tonight."
Ouch. Poor Phil. (He's recovered.) But he was my original reason for going to Cleveland. Now I was going to Cleveland only to speak at Laurel School.
Of course, I didn't consider turning around. I wanted to speak to the girls at the Laurel School. And Ann had already introduced me.
I drove on.
Worth Getting To: Laurel School
I spoke right after lunch. It went well.
If you applaud, you get more and better. If you applaud your teachers, it is so unexpected, they work harder to teach you better. If you thank the chef, you get better food. If you show gratitude, you get more – at work, at home, in love, among friends.
Right after the applause, the junior class officers came to the front of the auditorium and asked if I would speak at their graduation next year. Of course, I said yes.
But Ann came over and said that the senior class officers had come to her, asking her to invite me to speak at their graduation this year. "They reminded me that they were following proper protocol," said Ann.
Then, other students asked if I would come right away and teach their Life Skills class. "Of course," I said. "Which way is the classroom?" The teacher welcomed me into her classroom and we had a lively debate on ethical speech. It was a great delight. We all learned.
All this sounds like so much boasting, but I'm writing this because of what happened next.
What Happened Next
Or really, what did not happen next.
Usually, after I teach, I immediately unscrew my Teaching Head and place it in the book bag in the trunk of my car. Then, I screw on my Business Head and go to the next meeting. And, in all the unscrewing and screwing, I lose what happened in the classroom.
I have always moved on too quickly to understand how much I enjoyed the time spent with students.
This time, because poor Phil had taken to his sickbed, I didn't have a business meeting after leaving Laurel School.
I just drove home to Columbus. During the next three hours, I was left to process the experience. I didn't distract myself with the radio. I thought about the experience at Laurel School:
What had it felt like?
Why did I so enjoy it?
What would I give to relive that experience?
The drive home changed my life.
Give To Relive
Suddenly, I became a teacher in search of a classroom.
I described the experience to my lifelong friend, Jon York. And I told him my secret plan: "During the next 18 months, I need to figure our how to get into the classroom full-time."
"Eighteen months?" Jon said. "Pardon me, maybe we are different in this way, but when I want to do something, I want to do it right away. Do you really want to wait 18 months?"
After all, I already had permission to change my life. So what was I waiting for?
More to come.