Friday, February 26, 2010

A Visit to the Red House

I’m going to meet Edmund this weekend at the Red House in Vermont. Edmund is my teacher, my mentor and a well from which I draw a great deal of inspiration. He was my professor at college when I was studying languages (he and his wife, Veronica, were an important reason I chose to attend Marlboro), but he is so much more than that. It would take a very long time to put into words all that he is and just how he has inspired me as a teacher, a father and a husband. I have been blessed to remain close to his family for more than 20 years now.

I haven’t seen him in a while, though. The last time was during the summer, while he was still recovering from hip replacement surgery. Why he needed the bionic hip is a story worth hearing him tell. Not only does he tell a good story, but this one in particular illustrates very well the kind of man Edmund is. The expurgated version is that, during a Halloween party half a dozen years ago, Edmund was dressed as the incarnation of death and was carrying a nubile coed up three flights of stairs (did I mention that he’s nearly 80 years old?). He missed the top stair and put out his hip. The reason he had it replaced was because it was interfering with his ability to race mountain bikes. Seriously. The man is epic.

Our visits do not come often enough. There is simply never enough time to catch each other up on the happenings in our respective worlds, investigate the great problems of the universe and stroll properly across the vast landscape that is our longstanding relationship. Yet, even though our chats pass far too quickly, I leave him recharged and centered in a way that is difficult to describe. I’m reinforced in my belief that, even though we are all alike in our humanness, there are still such things as heroes, sages and masters, and that the two ideas are not mutually exclusive.

In my relationships with my own students, I work hard to try to communicate this. Teachers, especially in high school, often miss opportunities to build deep, personal relationships with their students. They strive to remain detached, aloof, disinterested because they think their job is to pass judgment impartially on their students’ efforts. Students, who know no better, see only this professional side of their teachers and often never get to learn from them how to form and nurture lasting relationships with the adults who inspire them. I see this as a great part of what teachers can do to contribute to the lives of children, far more important than teaching French or math or science.

I’m very proud of the fact that many of my students still orbit my world. They are out on their own, of course, having adventures, living life, but they come back to visit regularly. They bring their siblings, their dates, their husbands and children and they are never here long enough. The landscape of our relationship is vast, too. It’s not something I can really talk about directly with them, but I would consider myself honored if just one of them gets out of their time at Wayfarer House what I get from Edmund at the Red House.

Do you have someone in your life who is your mentor, and more?


the passionate hairdresser said...

"Maeve" is my professional mentor...I aspire to be half the colorist she is!!

You and wifeness are my life've done so much with how you conduct your lives that I strive to do!!! :)

Wayfarer said...

That's very kind! Thank you! We're so blessed to have you in our lives.