Monday, May 5, 2014

Tempus fugit

Principal ponderings...

**I am writing my post this week from Virginia Beach.  I came home to Virginia for the weekend to surprise my mother.  My siblings and I had planned a retirement party for her, inviting students, parents, and staff from over the years to come and celebrate with us.  She was certainly surprised!  So I am dedicating this week's post to my favorite teacher, my mother.  Here is the speech I gave at her retirement party; luckily, my sister had brought a box of tissues for both my mom and me.

Tempus fugit.  For all of the Latin scholars in the room, and there are many of you here, time really does fly.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was 1989. I was a sophomore at First Colonial.  Phil was a pre-law kindergartner.  And mom had just accepted a part time job as a high school Latin teacher at Cape Henry Collegiate.  There were a lot of tears that week.  She would come home, cry to me, and say I don't know if I can do's too hard.  And now, in the last few weeks, as this amazing teacher prepares to retire, there will be a lot of tears.  And she has said to me once again, I don't know if I can do's too hard.  25 years have passed in the blink of an eye, so much has changed, but the emotional impact of the job is still the same.

Tabula rasa.  It was a blank slate when Magistra Medley walked into her classroom at CHC all those years ago.  From nothing, she created everything.  It did not take long for students and the rest of the staff to learn...Latin is not dead!  Whether it was the little Caesar character painted on her wall or movie quotes such as 'frankly my dear I don't give a damn' in Latin or her hands on activities, students in her class knew that a class with Mrs. Medley was not like any other.  She pushed the limits for sure...some of you may remember back in the early days of foreign language week...she erupted Mt Vesuvius in the hallway complete with falling down columns, sounds effects, strobe lights and dry ice!  Yes, she did set the security alarm off.  Once Mrs. Medley settled into teaching, Latin became alive in the upper school.  And over the years, the Latin program kept growing.  It spread to the middle school.  But that wasn't enough.  There needed to be a lower school Latin program.  In fact, I don't know if my nephew William realizes that next month his Latin lessons will begin.  Every preschooler needs to know the Greek and Latin roots of words right?  I'm fairly certain that my siblings and I were conjugating before we could walk.  Of course it wasn't just Latin that you learned about in Mrs. Medley's class.  A class wasn't complete if Mrs. Medley didn't step up on her soapbox and wax philosophic about politics, sports, or the 60's.

Carpe Diem.  Forget about just seizing the day, mom has always seized every single second of every day.  Magistra Medley started her career at CHC by teaching Latin, but she has certainly done so much more than that.  Who better to sponsor the Spirit Club than this spunky lady?  Education comes from the Latin e duco, to lead forth...naturally mom created the Peer Leaders program and eventually the Junior Leaders.  No swim team at Cape Henry?  She fixed that problem...she started the team.  A little known CHC history tidbit.  Did you know that this lady was once an assistant coach to the varsity boys basketball team?  Those were the power house basketball days of Ben Dease, Mac Brown and Alan Haynesworth.  Hurricane Katrina happened hundreds of miles away from the world of Cape Henry.  And mom decided that she just had to figure out a way to reach out and help a school that needed so much.  And of course she decided that it was not enough to send supplies down there, no, she needed to take students there and get them involved in doing good.  There is a great children's book called Wonder, and there are several great quotes in that book that make me think of my mother.  There is a line that says, "If every person in this room made it a rule that whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary - the world really would be a better place." That is a lesson that you won't find in any textbook, but it's a lesson that we all continue to learn from my mother every day.  If you scan through her Facebook news feed and you don't immediately feel uplifted by her daily inspirational posts then you either don't have a soul or you are my father.  In some classrooms it's about bringing the world to the students.  For Mrs. Medley it was about bringing Cape Henry students out into the world as evidenced by her numerous trips with students all over Europe.    I have listed only some of Mrs. Medley's accomplishments and activities, but if I went through every single thing she has done from teaching Russian to sponsoring the Japanese animation club...well frankly we don't have the room rented for that long.  Even though she will no longer be physically present in the school, her charitable spirit will live on at CHC in the form of programs she has initiated, most recent of which is the food pantry.

So now it's time for Mrs. Medley to begin packing up her books, her pink flamingoes and her Trojan horses made out of Popsicle sticks.  It might even be time for the chalkboard to come down.  Yes, she is one of 5 teachers on the east coast who uses actual chalk on a chalkboard.  Over the years, I have tried to bring her to the dark side of whiteboards or smart boards, but I believe her exact words to me were always "but I love chalk, there's just something about being a teacher and writing on the chalkboard."  Clearly I lost that battle.  It has been interesting this year.  While I am finishing up my first year as a school principal, my mom is finishing her last year as a teacher.  While she might not be in the classroom any more, she will never stop teaching.  She was teaching all of us before she came to Cape Henry.  And she will continue to be an advocate for education long after her retirement.  She has certainly inspired me in my career, and I know our phone chats about teaching will still happen.  I speak for our whole family when I say that we are grateful for all of you.  The Cape Henry students, parents and staff have been a part of our family for a quarter of a century.  I lost count of how many cupcakes mom has made, how many spaghetti dinners she has hosted at our house, how many costumes she has sown.  We are so glad that we have been able to share our mom, our favorite teacher, with all of you.  She loves all of you.  But I must say we are very excited that now we won't need to share her; it's time for us to be a little selfish.  It's time for her to travel, to visit with her children, to play guitar more, to read even more books, time for her to spend more time with Will, time to welcome another grandchild soon, oh and maybe time to watch The Price is Right with dad.  I will finish with another quote from the book Wonder: "The things we do outlast our mortality.  The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they've died.  They are like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs.  Only instead of being made out of stone, they're made out of the memories people have of you."  This room is full of memories of Mrs. Medley.  I would like to raise my glass to you mom.  You are an amazing lady who has done amazing things.  We are proud of you.  We love you.  Here's to the next phase of your life.  It's  going to be great.  Bona fortuna!

My question to all of you...what amazing things are you doing for our students today that people will remember in your retirement speech?  What lasting impact will you have on your students?

This sign hangs in the kitchen where I grew up.  My mother loves all things 'Wizard of Oz',
and I do have to say after my visit...there's no place like home!

Currently reading:
I brought several books with me for my plane rides.  I have been rereading Reading in the Wild in preparation for doing a summer book chat.  I just love this book!  I am also still reading When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.  Historical fiction is definitely a genre that I have to push myself to read; it's not usually my genre of choice, but I'm trying.  I am also still working my way through The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

Events this week:
Tuesday - 4th grade canoe trip
Wednesday - K chorus practice @ 9:30, 3rd grade math MCAS, 4th grade canoe trip, staff meeting @3:30 in the library
Thursday - 3rd grade math MCAS, 4th grade canoe trip, K-2 jump rope assembly @PAC @9:30, 3-4 jump rope assembly @ PAC @ 1:30
Friday - 4th grade Mad about Math

Great things I noticed last week:

  • We had several students participate in the Special Olympics last week!  Even though the weather was certainly not spring weather, the students did a great job and enjoyed themselves.  They were welcomed back to school by Mrs. Potter's class.
  • Kindergartners enjoyed a visit from teachers from the Eric Carle Museum.  The students were completely engaged in the story being read to them, and then they enjoyed creating some of their own designs.
    Blank pages before K students got their hands on them!

And after the K students started creating!
  • A first grader from Mrs. Wilkins' class invited me to come hear her read with expression.  She did a great job!
  • One of Mrs. Goddard's art students made me a very special piece of art work for my desk!
  • The first graders were treated to a visit from Animal Adventures.  They learned lots of new facts and saw some interesting animals up close.  Here is a picture of them learning about the bearded lizard.  Did you know they use body language to communicate how they are feeling?

Check it out:
Check out the fun videos that you can make with the Chatterpix app:
An interesting read:

And I found this quote on twitter.  Good for us to remember during these last few weeks...

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