Twenty years ago I thought that at this point in my life I would have accomplished more. I presumed I would be in charge of something consequential. Now approaching middle age, the upper bounds on my professional accomplishments are clearer and my risk tolerance has changed.
With the support of my partner, I orchestrated a fairly successful career change where I moved from middle school assistant principal to software developer. Nevertheless as I careen towards the conclusion of my second score on this planet, I can't help but struggle with some degree of pessimism and disappointment. Why am I not in charge of something? What will I be remembered for? Have I even accomplished anything worthwhile?
Over the past year my partner and I decided to move our twin 6-year-olds from the local public elementary to a nearby private Montessori school. We moved to our house five years ago specifically so our kids would have guaranteed seats in the public school down the street, but as educators we know how the sausage gets made. We saw lots of warning signs that our kids were not getting the support we had hoped for.
Last week I visited the Montessori school for a new parent orientation. In lieu of a presentation on the curriculum, we got two short lessons - one on grammar and the other on long division - that illustrated the school's pedagogy.
The grammar lesson reassured me that the teacher is thoughtful and warm - perfect for my son. She began by placing a black, wooden, pyramidal block on a small desk. The pyramid was heavy and stable, she explained. You can put it on a desk. It is a noun.
Next she pulled a red wooden sphere from a box. The ball rolled across the desk. Of course it is the verb! Throughout the demonstration, the teacher connected the materials with how learning will look for our kids as they progress through this year and the years to come.
In the next classroom we were greeted by a teacher sitting on her knees with a few materials arrayed in front of her on a rug ready to introduce us to long division. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this math lesson moved me to tears.
The materials, the subtleness, the steady abstraction from physical objects to the written symbolic representation of the mathematics blew me away. I was sitting on the carpet wiping my eyes hoping that no one else would see the very normal 40 year old dude crying over long division. The only way I can describe it is that it was a beautiful lesson. I am so grateful that my kids will get that.
And maybe that's enough.