The following is an informal speech I made during the staff luncheon on our last teacher work day of the 2014-2015. I had to write out my words to be sure I said what I wanted to say, didn’t get emotional, and didn’t ramble. Having worked with Larry for three years in a collab class, and known him for my eleven years at the school, this was the hardest person to see go. I wanted to share this as a final tribute to this wonderful man, and I also think it represents the relationship that develops even when we are hesitant to co-teach with others in our building.
Back in late March, Larry made an off-handed comment about May 5th being his last day. I thought about it, and then obsessed, knowing that the man still had about 406 sick days left. I then sent him an email telling him that if he was really considering this that I needed to know for sure because I had to mentally and emotionally prepare myself. Not because I couldn’t teach the kids, mind you. I just wasn’t ready to let Larry go yet.
When I was first told I was going to teach a collab class, I was concerned because I’m too much of a control freak. We all know the first step is admitting you have a problem, though. Julie, who worked with Larry just the year before and knew his wife as well, responded to my concern by saying, “Well his wife is a little like that, so you’ll probably get along fine.” My thought to that was, Oh, this poor man.
So Larry, I’ve really tried. This probably should be an apology letter since you had to put up with me. Having worked together in a classroom for the past three years, you probably know me better than anyone else here. Good and bad, you still agreed to work with me this year. Thank you.
I will cherish every time that you or I made a joke in the room and you and I were the only ones who laughed. I will never forget student M. bringing his penguin to school, and we looked over during announcements to see Mr. Penguin and student M. sitting side-by-side, listening quietly. I’m sure you will not miss being called by the office out of my classroom to “meet a student” somewhere. I learned later that this is code for: “miscellaneous accidents to be dealt with.” I will miss tag-teaming our non-workers, non-writers, or kids like student R. who decide that he can focus better by kneeling on the floor and putting his head through the back of the chair. (I loved how that day both of us had just stopped, frozen, looking at him as if to say, “What the heck, kid?”) And there was that one day this year when I didn’t have much patience (or maybe I missed a medication dose) and made a sarcastic comment just to you. I remember you taking a step back to the hamster’s cage and saying (just loud enough for me and the hamster to hear): “Run! Run Away Now!” Out of all the times I can name, I will remember laughing with just you or with all the students we have taught.
I have learned so many things from you in these years of talking, observing, and co-teaching. It is impossible to put them into words. You are the person who I felt comfortable asking for an opinion and/or advice. You’ve always answered me in a way that has been honest, but always additionally helpful; constructively critical, but never cruel. You have a way of seeing good where there might only be seeds of potential. This is the gift of a true teacher and the reason students have loved you all these years. It is the reason I have grown to love you as well these past few years and to call you my friend as well as colleague and mentor.
And so I cannot say goodbye. I won’t. I will say best wishes to you, and I will say thank you, Larry. Thank you for all you have done for our students, for this staff, and for me.
And now, I’ll leave you with a quote from Mr. Carson, from Downton Abbey (a favorite of Larry’s). I looked at Larry one day in the classroom, and he had his hand folded up like a servant for some strange reason. I told him that he reminded me of Mr. Carson, and Larry said, “That’s the nicest compliment you can give me.”
Well, Mr. Carson has said: “The business of life is the acquisition of memories; in the end that’s all there is.” You have given me so many great memories, Larry, and I’m sure you take many wonderful memories from your teaching
years. But it’s not the end. Go now and enjoy your retirement full of adventures and new memories!