We know what it’s like when schooling is painful...
“I was the head of a boys school in a city that had a good number of really strong boys schools. Ours was terrific, but I’d be less than honest if I said we were clearly the ‘best’ of those schools. Each had its own niche and its own strengths.
One of these schools, though, had an incredible – for lack of a better word – I’ll call it ‘culture.’ We all talk about individual attention and about making sure kids don’t fall through the cracks, but these folks really had that down pat. You could just feel it when you walked into the building. The adults there really cared about their kids. It was almost palpable.
Before I moved, I went over to have a last cup of coffee with the head of this amazing school (we had become friends over the years) and I said, ‘Look. We’re no longer competitors. Can you tell me what makes this place so good? How do you do it?’
He went over and closed the door. Then he looked around the room for bugs. (For a moment I thought he was going to give me the secret recipe to Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken!) Then he said something that has stayed with me for years:
‘I have a learning disability. I never did well in school. I spent most of my life on academic probation, and I never hire anyone who had higher grades than I did in school. In other words, what we have here is a school full of teachers who struggled in school. Lots of them had undiagnosed learning issues, and some just came from tough home situations. But what we all have in common is this: we know what it’s like when schooling is painful. Because of that, I think we can connect with boys in a way that a school full of Ivy leaguers never could. I’ve got nothing against the Penn and Columbia crowd, but what we’ve got here, well, it’s not something you’d pick up in Harvard Yard’.”