Dr. Grauer's Column - 2020 New Year’s Remembrance
2020 New Year’s Remembrance of People In My Life Who Honored Teachers and Who I May Never See Again (But Would Like to)
I was reading the New York Times and saw Larry Silverstein’s midtown Manhattan apartment is for sale. Thirteen million. I can hardly believe I know him, and that I was in that apartment. Right while he was building the World Trade Center, we were building Grauer School Phase 3. He could have been walking on a construction beam as high as a redwood tree on Ground Zero, but instead he was walking the school grounds with me, here in Encinitas. I went on in high gear about all our school plans. Then he said, “I know a visionary when I meet one,” and he took out a big checkbook. Later on, his wife Klara held a salon back in that apartment in Manhattan for my new book, Fearless Teaching, with the dean of the Hunter College School of Education.
It’s a New Year. What about a remembrance of the people we will probably never see again? People who came into our lives like bolts out of the blue and changed them. The Merlins of our lives. I am making this list so that you might make your own.
Thank you to Stephen Spahn, the head of the Dwight School who hired me for my first full-time teaching job. As a teacher for him, I started New York City’s first school sailing club and, later on, shipped out mid-semester on a schooner to do marine research. When I got back, even though I was fired, he still offered me a job at his summer camp.
Cheers to Paul Lissandrello, who was assistant principal at a big public school on Long Island and became my department head and mentor—I had no prior understanding of what a mentor really was, and we never, ever talked of “mentors” in those days. I was naive to the “us versus them” dynamic of teachers and administrators, and almost beaten up when I stood up for him to mocking teachers in the lunch room. What jerks.
Thanks to Don Harmon, the head of International School of Bern, Switzerland, who sent me the only actual telegram I have ever received in my life, in order to hire me. Don took me in with his family, showed me mountain trails and climbing faces so beautiful I still think I must have been dreaming and, as I pulled in lesson plans from wild and off the wall places, he remained intrigued and amused.
Hat's off to Chris and Jud Cornish who took me in to develop San Diego North County’s first real prep school almost 40 years ago and treated me like their family. Even after I left to develop my own school, they sent me Grauer School legend Don Kish (who I saw last week for some Italian food) and his daughter Danielle.
1000 arigatos to Yoshi Miyazaki (and family) who picked me up in a Rolls Royce Corniche when I arrived in Tokyo my first time setting up a school exchange, and who overwhelmed me with gigantic, surrealistic platters of sushi for literally years for the simple reason that I was a teacher.
My heart to Joe Rost, my University of San Diego professor and doctoral advisor who showed me (I don’t know how) that my imagination was uniquely useful, quoting me in his books and articles. He could be blunt, and when I visited him on his deathbed, so sick and weakening, he told me: “Don’t come back.” That cracked my heart in two.
Hat’s off to Bill Currie, my father-in-law for 25 years, just as long as I had my own father, who, when I got back from my honeymoon and said, “I’m quitting my job to start a school,” instead of thinking his daughter married a madman who would not provide for her, said only, “’Atta boy, Stuart.”
And to Bill Owens, crusty business tycoon and school dad the first couple years of our school, who first gave me the money for the school’s ’89 Chevy Suburban so I could have “the biggest campus in San Diego” …and then gave me the money (actually stock in some kind of coal gas extraction thing in China) for the down-payment on something I was sure I would never have my whole life: the house I still live in.
And to Joan Knute, who willed the money for the property now and forever called “The Grauer School,” and who, when I asked her how I could best honor her gift said words that still stun me: “I just want to further your vision.”
To my sometimes outrageous mother Priscilla, also a teacher, who died 4 years ago today and who honored my teaching life with words too embarrassing for me to write, gone.
I hope to see you all again.
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