Attempting To Sum Up The Unquantifiable (Farewell Letter To My Colleagues)

Six years of weaving a shared thread…getting ready to let it go.  

Dear Hall Staff,

The first exercise I facilitated at our opening PD day in August 2014 (Library, chairs in a circle, not certain if Lisa was barefoot or not…) was about the idea of creating organizational norms – building off the work of Kegan and Lahey. In the absence of shared agreements and values, individuals default to their own private values. Being a healthy organization means committing to mutual values and aspirations in the shared space. Endeavoring to bring our best conversations out in the open – not in the parking lot (an article we discussed in Lisa’s old room, 606!). It might feel scary at first…but like any muscle, it gets fit with regular use (make sure to mix in stretching and rest, of course!).

Day One PD hike up Ring Mountain, August 2015

The architecture of life is a Venn Diagram – interlocking circles, unique and distinct spheres that also permeate with their neighbors. It’s apropos – and a tiny bit funny – that it’s the logo for Schools to Watch (that’s YOU, remember?).

My tile on the We Are One mural. Mt. Tam our guardian and inspiration, all of us engaged in an ongoing question (or cottony cumulus?) – creating on a blank canvas together. The Schools to Watch Venn our most essential atomic structure – Oneness is in fact a convergence (collision?) of multiple bodies, multiple forces. Together in strength and in dynamic tension.

Kindness Tree, September, 2016. Top 10 Life Moment.

Organizations (nations) are defined by how they celebrate and connect – also by how they move through challenges, chaos, disruption and discord (our present moment in the largest context possible). In the fall/winter of 16/17, my first as principal, we had instances of racist, bigoted language at Hall and in the community…and how did we respond? Like this. 

September 2016

What I would say, upon departure, is to be sure to hold firm to those moments of extreme tension and stress that we lived through – they showed us who we were – and by WE I mean our kids and our parents too. “Lord of the Flies?” A subsection of a chapter in our long story – something we leaned into together, sat with together, and emerged from with a profoundly enhanced sense of confidence in ourselves and our little ones. 

Turtle Rock, Ring Mountain, August 2015

I live at the base of Ring Mountain and run/hike it frequently – just this morning, in fact. 

Every time I am up there I think of our day together five years ago – a constant source of energy and joy (the uphill is still hard, though).

Walking the plank together – August 2017

Every transition brings the pot to a boil – the rich stew of emotion! Was I scared when I left 16 years of familiarity working in high school to come to the land of the littler (and louder) people? You betcha. I remember my first two weeks, the physical discombobulation at the pace of these children, running up to me, hugging me, the physicality of middle school, the topsy-turvy nature of the moment. I may have had a few bits of guidance (scoldings?) from some colleagues – “This isn’t high school.” I understood the point to mean that kids needed concrete consequences…

October 2018 ropes course

…yes – consequences can be effective, depending on the kid. We’ve had a number of kids whose suspensions have piled up, but no change to the behavior; punishment isn’t a panacea, it seems. What matters – and what WE have created together, every day – are concrete connections – bringing the child closer to see through the behavior and affirm them as a person of merit and value. When 90-plus percent of SIXTH graders say there is at least one adult on campus they trust and would seek out for support, you know you are in a special place – a place built on a commitment to that interdependency (like we found out at the ropes course, walking the plank, depending on that counterweight…!!).

“That’s who we are…the Euro dad in the Speedo…that’s what Hall is all about.” (Was that an awkward or appreciative silence that followed…?). Thank you Jeanne for hosting so many great (and awkward) moments for us as a family in 404.

Spring 2019

August 2019 Coastal Trail

Sailing into the wide open seas, you are in the best hands – someone who loves and cherishes you as much as I have – someone who will guide, support and push you, and herself, to reach for your best selves and SELF (as One) on the Continent’s Edge. 

Captain on deck!!!!!!!

Day One, August 2018 

When leaders leave a big space opens up – regardless of how one feels about her or him, the pot is stirred, and the landscape we’ve all gotten used to (maybe so much we forgot we were looking) is suddenly different. In that empty space exist any number of emotions – from nonchalance to anger – and some of the first thoughts in the organizational neural/emotional network are: “Who’s going to be next? What’s that new reality going to be like? Will we have to start everything over?” 

You are walking forward on solid ground…through the garden you planted.

August 2017 (leaning in!!)

Who has the Courage Stone? Keep passing it around…keep it moving, we all need it – we draw from its strength and infuse it with our own.

August 2019 Muir Beach PD (and hat competition)

Will I miss you? Will I stare at the contours of my new office, ponder the profiles and voices of my new colleagues, walking the hallways and courtyards of my new schools, and find myself at times wishing I were sitting and walking next to you (or jumping into the waves at Muir Beach together)?

Rhetorical questions.

August 2017

I’m meandering now along my own little stream – in this case, back up the Ross Valley watershed, where I came from in 2014…looking up at our beloved Mount Tam, just from a different perspective – not better, not prettier, but no less inspiring. 

Support takes many forms…helping someone up the rock face is one way (pushing them out into the void of the New can be another…)

What gift could I possibly give you all to express what you have meant to me since July 2014 when I undertook my first duty in LCM by walking in the Larkspur July 4th parade (Maya a pipsqueak second grader)? What work of art could I produce to display in your honor? What installation, poem, statue…? None would be adequate; all would be abstractions and approximations. 2,163 days since July 1, 2014 – a painting a day since then, perhaps, might approximate it. A painting for each of you for each day even better. (Noted on my to-do list)

In life, the head is usually above the heart. In yoga, we get to put the heart above the head. (Someone made a funny anatomical joke during this meeting, but professionalism dictates that I can’t say who, ¿verdad?)

One parting gift I’d like to leave is another idea from Kegan and Lahey: 

How do we practice ongoing regard for each other? How do we empower and strengthen each other every day in our exterior/visible work and our inner processes? Don’t wait for the award ceremony…give that appreciation in the hallway, on the lunchtime lap around Piper, in a quick classroom visit. 

Kath and Sarah cross paths 30′ up – August 2017

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

If I had only one image to show why Hall is great…

I’m literally 4.4 miles away in that direction (bring your mountain bike…).

Thank you for all you have given this community, and (selfishly), me; for educating my own children; for every ounce of love and soul you have invested, unreservedly, through all these moments we have been together; for humoring my silly jokes, my stream-of-consciousness ramblings; for trusting me as we danced along that stunningly beautiful precipice.  

With love,

Eric

2 thoughts on “Attempting To Sum Up The Unquantifiable (Farewell Letter To My Colleagues)

  1. You will be missed! You have created a wonderful place!!!!! Wondering who is going to be the lucky place benefiting from your creative leadership?

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