Many years ago, on a warm September morning, a young man entered a classroom in the South Bronx and began a career in education. Armed with the necessary training, excited to share all he had learned, and convinced he knew all there was to know, he introduced himself and began his first lesson … which was a total disaster. And that was the very best thing that could have happened.
That young man is me, Peter Haarmann. But my story is not very different from many other teacher’s first day experiences. After forty-three years in the classroom, twenty-seven as a Sixth Grade English Teacher at Allen-Stevenson, I am retiring, excited for what awaits. Teaching is like life – you can do all the planning and preparation you want and then in a matter of minutes, things completely implode before your eyes. Teachers can have the finest training, the fiercest determination to educate, and the strongest conviction they can make a difference, but without flexibility, the other components just don’t cut it. Middle School students are primarily designed to push teachers to their breaking points, not intentionally, perhaps, but from some internal mechanism that guides them. The only way to re-channel this energy is to be flexible and stay at least five steps ahead.
Like students, educators never stop learning. They never stop trying. And they never stop listening. School is a collaborative process; teachers teach students and students teach teachers. We plan curriculums, earmark necessary skills, design lessons, and evaluate progress from September through June. But it does not end there. Daily, we recalibrate the curriculum and reevaluate the skills needed to be successful in accordance with our changing world. We alter and expand our lessons and assess in a variety of ways never before conceived hoping to provide a rewarding experience for the students in our class.
Allen-Stevenson is an outstanding institution. Each and every boy that enters, and eventually exits, our school has been enriched by the experience. The depth of opportunities afforded each student is remarkable. It is nearly impossible for anyone not to be impacted positively by their time at A-S. I know the motto of our school translates that an A-S boy will behave “strongly and rightly”, but an Allen-Stevenson boy is also kind, forthright, upstanding, generous, and curious. Each and every one of you bears witness to these qualities.
Not returning to A-S in September will be difficult, but not impossible. In my heart and mind are thousands and thousands of fruitful days and memories, thousands and thousands of smiles and laughs, thousands and thousands of minor moments that make a life a life. Thanks to all of you who have shown me kindness, offered me a compliment, and trusted in me these years. These too are in my heart and mind.