It was a day I had anxiously awaited since my first Skype meeting with Cindy Shaw, Susie Cobbs, and Deidre Brown two weeks prior. There it was: the beautiful, well-landscaped, Drake campus. It seemed elegant, intimate, and newly familiar.
I felt soothed and comfortable as I approached the turn lane. I made eye-contact with the crossing guard, was waved into the school, but then I hastily turned off my signal and continued down Drake.
“What are you doing, you fool? You are going to be late!” I said aloud to myself. I glanced at the clock. Thirty minutes to spare. Thirty minutes to practice. My brain was in this anticipatory interview state of, “I believe Jean Piaget hit the nail on the head with his idea of genetic epistemology.” This is a fascinating topic that interests, well, probably not one person who is reading this.
Somewhere between that thought and Trevor Drive, I realized that none of this preparation would show Randolph who I truly am as an individual and educator, and what I truly believe is best for children. As I turned the car around, I was overcome by this gratifying feeling of peace, because I was convinced that I would mentally set fire to the ostentatious phrases I’d been relaying all the way to Huntsville, Alabama from Jackson, Mississippi, and just be me.
As I walked through the front doors, I immediately felt that this was the place I could do just that. Dr. Hulsey often makes reference of the school’s promise each year: to know, challenge, and love every student. As a prospective faculty member, this was instantly clear.
I was given a schedule for the day, and a bottle of water. In fact, every person I met that day offered me a bottle of water. At first, I found this humorously strange, but after the first three hours of conversations, I began to understand why. Every student and faculty member who passed smiled and said good morning. Deidre Brown and Glynn Below welcomed me and asked genuine questions about my life and the journey that brought me to that very moment. Having these meaningful conversations left me ready for the day, not nervous about the upcoming six hours of interviews, but enthusiastic and excited to share my passion.
I had lots of wonderful conversations that day with the people who truly make Randolph School so great. Dr. Hulsey and I talked for a long time, but a moment I will never forget was his asking me what book I was currently reading.
I had never been asked this in an interview, and I loved that this question, along with others that day, were not the jaded, “Tell me about your last class and their latest test scores,” and “To which educational philosopher do you most relate?” It was a pleasant surprise to say the least, and a simple question that illustrates the school’s commitment to their teachers, and to lifelong learning. As an avid reader, I was thrilled to share my latest reads, and also thankful that they didn’t consist of Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight.
I left that day feeling invigorated to find a school that truly understands developing the whole child. Having grown up the daughter of a school superintendent, public school was all I knew. After graduating college, I followed my husband to Mississippi and accepted a teaching job in a public school.
Although there were aspects of my experiences in public schools that taught me so much, something was missing for me. It was hard to get to know, truly know, twenty-six students each year. It was difficult to challenge my more able students, when there was so much pressure to make sure my struggling students “caught up.” I remember driving home each afternoon fixating on my failures, rather than my classroom successes.
Driving home each day is now completely different. I reflect on conversations I have had with my first grade students. I remember after our first week together I had already heard the words: ricochet, ambitious and cumbersome. These are six-year-olds who want to make meaning of their world and prove to the adults surrounding them that they can make a significant impact on their community by just being themselves.
At the end of the day, I am often in awe of the raw enthusiasm of these students. In this twenty-first century classroom that Randolph has established, the teacher is no longer these students’ only means of retrieving information. With all the technology available to these young minds, information is at the tip of their fingers. Therefore, my role in the classroom is to challenge students to ask the right questions, explore, think differently, and know they are in a safe place where they can take risks. The rush of being in front of students who yearn to feel known, challenged, and loved, is without equal. Although perhaps in second place, is the rush that comes from knowing that as a teacher, you are known, challenged, and loved by colleagues, and the families of Randolph.
In a word, Randolph is astounding. I encourage you to visit us for yourselves and guarantee that you will become a believer.