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Last Week's Top 10 Moments

Moment Number 10: The Mahogany Sessions. It's Friday night, the end of a beautiful week and the start of a three-day weekend. I put on a 30-minute YouTube musical collection of acoustic musicians playing in outdoor settings: in a forest, by a garden, before a barn. Nothing artificial or virtual, this is actual people playing and singing together—outdoors. Declan Donavon, under a weeping willow tree... people harmonizing or playing harmonica or strings. Okay, it's YouTube, online, but the people look like my neighbors and you can play along real-time. And Lord Huron...don't even go there.

Even in this troubled, troubling world and community, people sick or hurt, cars breaking down, the odd mean person, there is nothing like music to lift the spirit. What a beautiful week it's been.

9.Vintage: The 1989 Suburban, one of the first gifts ever made to The Grauer School, has been freshly "pimped out" with white vinyl seats and blue piping. Rust-busted and with new blue metallic paint. I get in and turn on the radio. It's "My Sharona" from 1979, by The Knack. I am bumping down the road, riding high, to the Interscholastic Surf competition at Ponto Beach. It's a sunny-beach, timeless Saturday. (We won.) Who lives better than us?

8. Jellybeans: A student (grade 7) comes into my office with a big grin of colorful braces. "Can I have some jelly beans?" she asks, like she does almost every day.

"Only if you can answer the very important question," I say.

She grins and recites: "The handsomest headmaster in the world is: you."

"How did you know!" I say. "You may have four jellybeans, that's the maximum not the minimum." I live and bribe for grins like hers.

7. Warriors on the Green: Kellen C. '18 got his Nerf Wars proposal passed and I join the warriors after school, as we stalk one another all over the campus. I stealthily take out Max B. (grade 7) and teacher Nick Scacco in one sweep. Devastating! Then hit, or nerfed, I let out a bloodcurdling scream and kick about 20 buckets before spreading eagle on the chilly green.


Dr. Grauer battling 7th grader Gabriel C. '23 in a Nerf War skirmish

6. Paco: After one long day in the office, I am home and petting my scruffy dog, Paco. No matter where you rub him it activates a completely different part of his body. You might be rubbing his rump, but his leg is kicking wildly.

5. Socratic seminar: Brian Dugan has a classic, solid wood Socratic "Harkness" table setup and the 8th grade class gathers around, all eyes converging in attunement (probably my favorite educational concept). Brian is a new teacher and sits among the students rather than at the head of the table. Everyone in here has a slight grin on their face. The grin says: "trust." They talk about a story they read.

4. Fog: Surfing Friday morning before school, the fog is heavy. The dawn-breaking sun bleeds orange and raspberry through the white haze, and you can make out the grey silhouettes of palm trees lining the horizon. On a wave, the water is so clean and glassy it feels viscous, and I can stand on a wave and watch it unpeel before me in awe as my board slices a straight line. No maneuvers necessary this morning—the thing is to just observe.


Dr. Grauer surfing at Cardiff Reef - photo by Wyatt Tillotson

3. Soul Work: Our admissions office sent out notices to the YMCA partner agencies and to Nativity Preparatory Academy announcing "diversity scholarships" for incoming 7th and 9th grade students. We transform lives of kids of all backgrounds, but nowhere more clearly and visibly than in our scholarship program, typically for kids who will be first-generation college students when they graduate from Grauer.

2. Science Fair: At the science fair, Lourdes F. '22 (like quite a few of Grauer's middle schoolers) presents like a pro scientist but she's an 8th grader! She won the judges' top award, Best of Show for Scientific Achievement, at the science fair with her project, "Anatomy of a Blood Splatter". She is the future, and that makes us fortunate.

Number 1 Moment: Climbing a tree. The top moment of the week for me is a photo, the value of which I could not capture in 1000 words, but which captures my life and career aspirations. It's three kids drilling each other for teacher Nick Scacco's biology test while climbing the school's sprawling, graceful Hawaiian coral tree. One is sitting on a branch, drilling. Another is hanging and swinging on a branch and answering the drill questions. A third is climbing all over the branches, just climbing. This moment will do just fine as my lifetime achievement award. This is the very tree I planted with my own hands about 10 years ago. I make a mental note to ask Nick how those kids did on the test.

3 students climbing the school's Hawaiian coral tree while drilling each other for a biology test

This is an archetypal moment, truer and more valuable than anything you can prove or test. I once wrote a whole book, "Fearless Teaching," of stories about things that happen that are so essentially true they are beyond measurement. That was my week: real reality.

Fearless Teaching Book


Fearless Teaching is a stirring and audacious jaunt around the world that peeks—with the eyes of one of America’s most seasoned educators–into places you will surely never see on your own. Some are disappearing. It is a bit like playing hooky from school. You will travel to the Swiss Alps, Korea, Navajo, an abandoned factory in Missouri, the Holy Land, the Great Rift Valley, the schools of Cuba, the ocean waves, and the human subconscious—oh, and Disneyland.

There you will find colorful stories for the encouragement, inspiration, and courage needed by educators and parents. Fearless Teaching is not a fix-it book—it is more a way of seeing the world and the school so that you can stay in your work and focus on what matters most to you.

Grauer’s writing reminds us that
"Great Teaching, singular, rare, unusual, is something that should be sought after and found. Thank you.”
Richard Dreyfuss, Actor, Oxford scholar, founder of The Dreyfuss Initiative


Click here to order Fearless Teaching today

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