I began teaching a little over 30 years ago with no idea that it would become my life's path. I started with the vague idea that I wanted to teach for a year or two and then move on to something else, but I quickly discovered that I loved living in a community of adolescents and adults devoted to learning. What began as a temporary job after college ended up being my life's vocation.
Two major causes led me to begin teaching, one serious and one silly. In my senior year of college I thought about teaching as a starting point in my career because teachers had been so important to me in my life. Looking back on my elementary school through high school, teachers were the biggest influence on me, second only to my parents. I wanted to give back in some way to young people and hopefully be a role model in the way so many teachers had been for me.
On a more superficial level, graduating from college in the 1980's meant that I also had to look at the investment banking world as a career option, and I dutifully attended an information session at the office of career counseling. When they informed me, and all those in attendance, that it was essential to show up for any interview with a suit and lace up shoes, and that anything else would mean an instant rejection, I paused. I only owned a blue blazer and khakis, plus a pair of reasonably nice loafers, and I wasn't too excited about a job where I would be judged on my choice of footwear. I asked one of the guidance counselors what jobs did not require such formal attire, and the answer was, "Well, you could try teaching." Since that option fit with my broader idea of giving back, I started looking at schools.
I had the best of intentions, the desire to work hard, and a readiness to throw myself into the full life of a school community. I was also inexperienced, and I quickly discovered that teaching was difficult. Knowing a subject yourself and teaching it to others are two very different things. How to convince students that what you want them to learn actually matters to them? How could I make the dry, dusty stuff of history relevant? How could I motivate and encourage reluctant learners to begin their own quest for understanding, independent of me? Over time, these questions became the guideposts in my approach to teaching.
I worked at a great boarding school and devoted 30 years to teaching and coaching there. Along the way I met a wonderful woman, married, and raised a family; when our two boys had both graduated and we were left with an empty nest, the time seemed right to consider a move. We wanted to move to be closer to family, and to find a place that would offer new and exciting opportunities for us both.
I interviewed at several well-known schools and felt comfortable with all of them; when I interviewed at Dublin, I felt energized. Here was a school with values and a mission that really connected with me. The idea of meaningful work, the motto of truth and courage, and the encouragement to guide young people as they navigate their teenage years all had a deep appeal to me. I could see respect among and between the adults on campus, and there was an explicit statement that everyone working at the school, regardless of role or title, was a teacher. Academics, athletics, residential life, care of the physical plant, artistic and intellectual endeavors were all working together in a mutually supportive web. Again, this unified and collaborative approach to life convinced me that Dublin was where I should be.
My first year has only deepened this conviction, and I am continually surprised and impressed with the school community. I wake up each morning excited for my work and eager to be on campus. I feel that I am indeed giving back, as well as sharing my enthusiasm for history and rowing and learning in general, and this is why I teach at Dublin. (I do now own lace up shoes and more than one suit, and whenever I wear them to work I often smile to myself and think about how seemingly random moments can have a profound impact on an individual's life.)