Bodie's Vantage Points

Lessons Learning Number Three: Love the Place

Volume XV, Issue 3
Seventeen years ago, while interviewing with the Board at Spence, one of the most dynamic trustees asked me what I was most proud of from my leadership at Marin Academy, my former school. “Of building a school that wasn’t afraid of loving itself,” I answered. “Oh, honey,” she retorted, “We don’t use the ‘Love’ word in New York.”
 
But you do. We do. And that makes all the difference. Teaching, leading and working in schools demand intense attention, almost every waking hour, and the output of care and energy is extraordinary. If you love the school, all that intensity makes sense; if you don’t, I can only imagine the invisible anchor you have to carry every day.  
 
You love those early hours of quiet just before the school wakes up and you can already hear noises from the kitchen as it readies itself for the multitude of meals ahead. Or you love the early evening just when the school is saying goodnight, and as you leave, you see the forgotten sweatshirt in the hallway and hear the vacuums moving from corner to corner. You love how the Lower School students run, literally run, into the building, already loving their own day ahead. You love how the Middle Schooler, trying to sneak into the elevator, turns around as if she were not at all interested in a ride when she sees you in it. You are repeatedly amazed whenever an Upper Schooler graces the stage, the court, the field or the podium, bringing together all the years of learning into strong voice, confidence and capacity. You love the sense of pride you feel, deep down and very, very real.
 
So, yes, we do use the “Love” word right here at Spence, and as I consider my last year, the letters of that word grow into the Monty Python dimension. I already miss the smells, the noises, the thundering of feet running up and down the stairs by my office window. So much to think about.
 
I’ve been working on a Pantoum about the things I hear and know about Spence. A Pantoum is a Malaysian poetic form with a series of interwoven lines and stanzas that echo significance through repetition. I’ve been working on this periodically, and, appropriately, the lines change each time I work on it. Here is how it lives now, and I offer it to you all with humility and, yes, love.  
 
What I Hear and What I Know
Not for School, but for life.
What do you really do all day?
I have the best job in town.
I write to thank you for your thank you note.
 
What do you really do all day?
Will tomorrow be a snow day?
I write to thank you for your thank you note.
Spanksgiving is the best meal ever…and ever.
 
Will tomorrow be a snow day?
We don’t get out much.
Spanksgiving is the best meal ever…and ever.
What exactly is the Upper School uniform?
 
We don’t get out much.
Could we review my paper one more time?
Oh, we have no trouble meeting boys.
When I was little at Spence, I felt big.
 
Could we review my paper one more time?
Oh, we have no trouble meeting boys.
When I was as little at Spence, I felt big.
Sorry (panting), I just climbed 8 floors.
 
Oh, we have no trouble meeting boys.
This really is a moral and intellectual adventure.
Sorry (panting), I just climbed 8 floors.
It’s hard to leave: I grew up here.
 
Not for School, but for life.
This really is a moral and intellectual adventure.
It’s hard to leave: I grew up here.
I have the best job in town.  

 
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