Saturday, March 16, 2013

Let’s dangle our feet…

In the Cincinnati Public Schools 5th grade program (at least in the 70s) one’s class went away for a week of “experiential learning” at Camp Joy. I was excited about the week of camp—I always loved camp food and camp songs and camp camaraderie. The only dark cloud on the camp horizon for that week was that I was going to miss the repeat of the wedding of Rhoda and Joe from the sit-com Rhoda. In the fall when Rhoda left Minneapolis and gave New York another try in her eponymous, new sit-com, I sat, along with 50 million other Americans, and watched Rhoda trudge all the way up to the Bronx (remember Phyllis forgot to pick her up!) and get to her wedding. I loved that episode.

Since these were the days before VCRs and DVRs and Youtube, my father came to the rescue and manually audio tape recorded the repeat episode while I was at Camp Joy with the other 5th graders. (That means he sat there with the microphone held up to the TV volume for the length of the hour-long episode!) Over the years that cassette tape was one of the most-played tapes perhaps in the history of the world! (Or at least my world!) I memorized the dialogue, got my neighborhood kids together and I directed them in acting out the episode. If you offered me a quarter, I can still recite whole chunks of the dialogue from this mid-70s sit-com special episode!

So Rhoda has been on my mind for the last week or so, ever since the announcement in the news that Valerie Harper, the real-life actress who gave life to that inimitable and memorable character, has incurable cancer and has perhaps a few weeks now left to live. I read the announcement on-line, wrote my sister, reminding her of our memorized dialogue of the wedding episode lodged forever in my mind (here’s another fun family fact: about 20 years ago I wrote a long, exam-like list of questions for my sister to answer all based on that one episode…okay, continue laughing at me…)

My sister wrote back and asked, “I wonder how she is going to spend that time?”

So for the last week or so, Valerie Harper, mortality, time, death, all these things have been on my mind. Last Saturday I found an episode of Top Chef and the theme that week had the competing chefs all making a sextet of famous chefs their desired “last meals.” What would we want our last meal to be? How would we spend those last few weeks? Interesting questions…

I am reading a book on my kindle called, The End-of-Your-Life Book Club which is a wonderful memoir of a son, my current age, helping his mother through the last few months of, guess what, incurable cancer. They decide to pass the time in doctor’s offices by reading books and talking about the books. It is a great read. I looked at the end. You can guess the ending. But one of the great observations in the book is that we, as a society, don’t mind talking about ‘death,’ but we do mind talking about dying.

So as the week progressed, there seemed to be more pop-up conversations about death and writers and death. I spoke with one friend about Joan Didion’s book about her husband’s death, and then she recommended Joyce Carol Oates’ book about her husband’s death…not a morbid fascination really, just ruminations about death and mortality. But still I loved my sister’s query: “I wonder how she is going to spend that time?”

Yesterday, Friday is our Saturday, and it proved, um, what would be the word…lonelier than I would like. Not lonely like tragic lonely, just, you know alone, and aware of being alone. Last August when I came back to Jordan for Year #6, one of my oldest friends, a dear junior high and high school friend named Doris, met me just before I left to come back and gave me a bag full of cards. She had gone card shopping with me in mind, and gave me cards for my birthday, Sweetest Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and one card whose envelope read, “Open Only on a Lonely Day.”

In the last seven months I had opened the cards at the appointed time, enjoying thinking about Doris and our friendship and how it stretches over 35 years. But I left that last card in my desk drawer, sure that I didn’t need to open it. Yesterday proved to be the day, however. Again, not because of any melodramatic reason, it just seemed to be a lonely day, and I am a follower-of-instructions.

I open the card, not sure what syrupy, maudlin treacle I might find. The front of the cards reads, “They came to sit and dangle their feet off the edge of the world and after awhile they forgot everything but the good and true things they would do someday.” What a great sentiment! Inside Doris wrote about the many times we have sat at the edge of the world, feet dangling. She wrote of our shared memories, our music, our laughter. She reminded me of how we always “dared to dream” together…what a refreshing and wonderful card. A perfect antidote to a day that felt lonely.

After I enjoyed the glow of Doris’ sentiment, I did some phone calls, and it was strangely back to the week’s theme of death and dying. I spoke to my friend Anne and got an update about her cousin (with whom we have traveled) and her incurable cancer. She is in hospice now, and Anne reported that she is comfortable and “enjoying the care.” She found it hard to believe how serene her cousin is. Not long after that phone call I learned on Facebook that an old friend from my days in the South, a delightful gal named Rita, had just an hour before lost her husband (she is one year older than I am) to cancer. Her posting spoke of love and peace.

Obviously when one ponders those real-life situations, one’s own little loneliness-es pale. But how interesting that the last week has yielded interesting discussions and readings about the process of death and dying, how Valerie Harper appears on television reminding everyone not to speak in terms of memorializing her, she is still living! From the interview I saw on Good Morning America, our Rhoda was certainly dangling her feet and thinking of the good and true things.

So last night Julianne returned to Jordan! She had been gone for a week, doing a speaking engagement at a conference in the USA. She brought back her mother, the irrepressible Joan, who is just as vital and invigorating as someone can be! She called up, talked of going out to dinner, and yallah¸ we high-tailed it to Haret Jdoudna, our go-to place in Madaba. As the evening unfolded, beautiful dinner and beautiful friends before me, it felt just like we were doing what the card suggested, let’s just dangle our feet a little here, over here, in the Middle East, certainly the edge of the world!

You know if you were a fan in the 1970s of Rhoda there was a clever bit in the end credits of the show. The character of Rhoda crossed a street, and reminiscent of the ending on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda whipped off her floppy, bohemian, 70s style hat, and tossed it into the air. Now on MTM that ideal Mary Richards tossed her hat and it froze mid-flight, perfection with the smile and the perfect moment. Rhoda isn’t as lucky, her hat falls on the ground, gets stepped on, and now just getting in everyone’s way.

Rhoda’s life and end credits are like most ordinary people’s lives—you toss the hat up, and down it comes, oh-well-ing as you continue across the street. Rhoda can live forever. That talented actress cannot, but as she makes her way across the stage for a final hurrah, she does remind us to live, to dangle our feet, and to savor the wonder of just crossing the street.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bringing in the Sheaves—the Dream of E Pluribus Unum

I don’t know if it was my two-week stint in the United States last month that made me think about my homeland a little more, but last week as I taught about the artistic impulses (or lack thereof, really) in the early days of the US of A, I spent a little more time than I ever had discussing and deconstructing the art work found on the dollar bill, specifically, on the back, with The Great Seal of the United States.

You don’t even need to run and get your wallet—just look below at the image on the back of the poor, hardly-worth-anything-anymore dollar bill.

Have you ever studied the dollar bill? There is so much Latin on it, and so many little codes and clues. It is an interesting story exploring how this seal came to be.

In 1776 the Continental Congress authorized a committee to develop a seal, which came to be called, “The Great Seal of the United States of America.” This committee proposed several designs yet it took several years—ahhh…committee work—and no design was actually acceptable, but one motto stuck, the Latin words, E Pluribus Unum, in English, “from many, one.”

Later in 1782 the Continental Congress asked Charles Thomson, who was its secretary, to develop a design for the Seal of the United States. Thomson, a man nearly forgotten today from among all the founding fathers, was believed to be such a man of integrity that the Delaware Indian nation adopted him as an honorary member and trusted him in regard to translating and assisting them in negotiations with the United States government. So great was this man’s integrity that a common saying in that era to verify a fact or transaction was, “This is as true as if Charles Thomson’s name was on it.” Thomson took the motto, E Pluribus Unum, that had been approved by Congress in 1776, and incorporated it into the Great American Seal which is the bald eagle with an olive branch in one talon and arrows in the other, symbolizing ours as a nation of peace on the one hand with a willingness to defend itself on the other. Guess how many olive leaves are in one talon? Guess how many arrows are in the other? 13 each…I am sure you know why 13!

Charles Thomson used the inscription E Pluribus Unum as the written articulation on the ribbon coming out of the eagle’s mouth. Initially referring to the peoples of European stock and the 13 colonies that they populated, E Pluribus Unum was a call to societal unity.

When Thomson presented his design to the Continental Congress he also read a passage from Genesis 37:6-7. He read the words, “And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed, for behold we were binding sheaves in the field and low my sheaf arose and also stood upright and behold your sheaves stood around about and made obeisance to my sheaf.”

Again, “And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed.” As I taught this little snippet of early American History last week, I emphasized how the founders combined two visions, two dreams in creating the United States, the realization of “The Promised Land,” and the hope of a “Republic of Virtue.” As Thomson read those words, no doubt many of those brave representatives thought about the power and role of dreams in transmitting spiritual understanding. This role of dreams in conveying guidance and illumination is documented and substantiated throughout the history of religious and spiritual communities the world over. Whether it is the dreams that transmitted revelation and guidance to Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, or the visionary dreams bestowed to the major and minor prophets, Kings and disciples in the Holy Bible or the dreams in the modern era of men like Martin Luther King, Jr., dreams are one means that God has employed to warn, inform and instruct mankind. Dreams are a way not only for telling events but instructing them as well.

On the other side of the back of the dollar, across from that eagle, is an incomplete pyramid, a nod to the fact that the founders believed that the building process was incomplete. It is monitored by the all-seeing eye of knowledge. Down below that unfinished pyramid is the Latin phrase, "Novus Ordo Secclorum," hailing the “new order of the ages.” Up above is another Latin phrase, "Annuit Coeptis," which translates to “Providence favors our undertakings.”

Let’s go back to Jacob’s dream in Genesis, the dream of the gathering of sheaves to inform how Thomson proceeded in realizing another dream, another vision, the vision of E Pluribus Unum. Here we are, some 230 years after Thomson relayed this to the Continental Congress, with the motive of making this world a better place, a more unified society for all to live in. We are now at a point where we should gather these sheaves of good acts and kindly deeds together and lift them up in obeisance to the sheaf of racial and cultural unity with diversity, or as our national motto cries out from the mouth of the eagle on our basic unit of paper currency, the dollar bill, E Pluribus Unum. The seal on the back of the dollar is a wonderful reminder of where we originated and provides a healthy check as to how we are doing in bringing in the moral sheaves.

There is the old hymn, “Bringing in the Sheaves,” which announces that we come rejoicing when we bring in the sheaves. Somehow this little lesson last week provided an interesting meditation to me about the founding of the United States, and of course, to me, the founding of KA in 2007. This is a school where many, many come together. Thirty nations are represented among the students and faculty. It is certainly not as if the school, or the USA, comes together as one mind or one voice, but certainly as one community, one human family in that dream of E Pluribus Unum. Just a nice little reminder of the dreams and the visions we find in the trees of history.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

One More Day

As I speak with prospective faculty members on the telephone, or via skype, I am often asked what a typical day is like at KA. While bells go off at the same time every day, no day, naturally, is really “typical” because somewhat unpredictable things are happening every day. But I do try and talk them through our “typical” day—and I always say, “The days are long here but the weeks fly by!” I don’t know if that gives them the perspective they need, but it is how it feels to me.

Just for fun, let’s look at last Monday as a glimpse into what life at KA is like in this early March of our sixth year. I got out the planner and looked over the day to see what I accomplished.

I started the official professional day about 6:30 am writing an email to the student body about the upcoming play I will direct. This is a play that I was not supposed to direct, but circumstances changed for another teacher, and I was asked to rustle up a spring play. The process of the play choice can take me weeks, but that wasn’t the kind of time I had. I chose a play I found in the bookstore of the National Theater during the job fair in London a few weeks ago. It is a British play called The Exam and it is a comedy-drama about teen-agers who have to muddle their way through the ordeal of a high-pressure exam. The dialogue is sharp, the adults are the loony, unstable ones, and the teens have to survive a powerful, and even absurd, barrage of self-doubt and parental pressure. I needed to devise a rehearsal schedule and stoke their excitement about the auditions the following day.

After I checked on the printing of some documents for later in the day, I realized I wasn’t going to get to one thing on my checklist for the morning—writing to all the faculty undergoing the pilot appraisal program this spring. That has been on my To Do List for a few days, and again it got jettisoned.

My first appointment of the day is with my treasured colleague, Lilli. Lilli is off the following night for a conference in Bahrain, and we needed to meet about the appraisal plan, but more immediately, we needed to sift through the dozens of requests for professional development monies and decide who gets what money. The deadlines for some summer conferences are fast approaching and we needed to allocate the money. We have a generous amount of money, albeit a fixed amount, and needed to check and double-check on the conference or workshop and decide whether or not it should be funded by the school. Within the next day I will have given out $125,000!! Oh, my—the excitement and triple-checking of the numbers to make sure we can allocate enough to everyone!

After Lilli stepped out to go to class I had an appointment with a student who had sent me a cryptic email the night before. He wanted to meet with me and noted that perhaps I “might be the only person in the world who could possibly help” him. Oh, the pressure! So the student came. The topic was not about academics but about a love triangle. I could help him?!?! But this was a serious topic to him and as he described the problem with a girl and a best friend, oh my, my mind raced back to 1981. This situation felt so much like the triangle in which Doris and Kevin and I found ourselves in much, much younger days. I talked him through it—he didn’t know which one he wanted to lose…and again, the French reminder that “the more things changed, the more they stayed the same,” raced through my mind. We talked for about 40 minutes, and in the end, he sighed and said, “See, you are the only one in the world who could help me.” Such painful steps those adolescent steps with friends and love and patience.

Next on board was a necessary conversation with a teacher who, while he is a smart and enthusiastic educator, he can also overstep his bounds and speak in a way that diminishes his position as a solid educator. Obviously, these are tricky conversations because they involve ego and hope and reputations and personality. But I believe that speaking with someone straightforwardly may help more in the long run. It was a good conversation and he did understand that I am on his side.

Okay, let’s see…oh yes, I need to spend some time with one of the administrative assistants as she compiles all the requests for the professional development monies into a spread sheet. So far we haven’t overreached on the budget. I do continue to get late requests, even though the deadline was over a week earlier. Ah, the student apples do not fall so far from the teacher trees…

Okay, I need to check on a candidates that are in the hopper. I have learned a great sports phrase in doing the recruiting: we talk about a “depth chart” fairly often. Hmmm…I got the idea, but Julianne needed to explain how a baseball manager creates a depth chart and all that stuff. Okay, we still have 6 openings and we need to make sure that we have back-ups in case offers are declined. I send out emails asking for times to skype. I spend some time with Julianne checking on the performance schedule for The Exam in April, working on the calendar, chatting about her upcoming presentation at a conference about KA, and then discussing the best ways to make a frittata. A little strange, but I guess necessary!

Lunch on Mondays is usually my Professional Development Seminar lunch. About 20-25 people gather for sandwiches and chips in a classroom and we explore more of the Doug Lemov book, Teach Like a Champion. This has been a great book this year, and each week we discuss 3 more of the techniques this man has discovered are the strategies used by the champion teachers. It is a rollicking group, full of discussion and insights and a mix of teachers both new and veteran, young and seasoned.

Okay, I need to check on my printing for class…everything is ready. I have some guests coming next so I better have enough chairs for class. In Art History today we are looking at the examples of art found in the colonies of the fledgling United States. I introduce that the themes of “The Promised Land,” and “The Republic of Virtue” certainly guide the colonies and the founding of the US in almost everything they do. I take a little tangent and spend some time discussing the design of the dollar bill in the new USA and the new Seal of the United States, the images and Latin phrases on the bill itself. Hmmm…I enjoy pondering about the choices made in those early years, and the hopes and blessings of God on the new project that is the United States…I think about this the rest of the day and decide that this might have to be its own blog entry.

After Art History class we move to the auditorium for school meeting with announcements about service projects, various upcoming programs and finally we move as a school to the gym to the pool for the Second Annual Boat Race. This exciting event came out of a physics class and the discussion of how to take cardboard and foil and create a usable boat in water. The physics classes create their own boats and they we have a race. There must be about 40 entries and the boats range in looks from sleek and slim to one that looks like a Chinese Dragon race. At least two people must be in the race and the goal is to see whose homemade design actually works. It is one of those school events that is incredibly fun.

By this time it is dinner time—I spend some time on emails, visit Julianne downstairs with her kicky OSL gang, and then have one more phone call with a candidate. In our discussion the candidate gushes and says, “It sounds like you really care about each other at this school. It’s more than just a job.”

I asked her if she liked sit-coms at all…she didn’t know where I was going with this, but I explained that certain sit-coms work better than others because you grew to care about the characters. I then launched into a brief history of The Honeymooners, and Ralph and Norton, those two buddies who were more than just funny characters. I recounted a scene in which they transcended the ha-ha funny of most sit-coms. Do you remember the episode where Norton gets hurt in the sewer? Ralph and Norton have had a terrible fight and they’ve ended their friendship. Ralph has thrown Norton out of his house with a, “Get out! Bah!” And what’s initially funny is that Ralph has replaced Norton with someone exactly like Norton. That new pair are about to go out bowling together—when there’s a knock at the door. A man runs in and says, “Did you hear about Norton? There was an explosion. He was hurt, hurt in the sewer.” As a casual historian of TV sit-coms I am pretty sure there hadn’t been something serious like this before in such a lightweight show.

Ralph says, “That’s my fault that he was there tonight. If anything ever happened to Norton—if anything ever happened to him, I’d never forgive myself. I got to get down there.” And the new friend says, “You just got done telling me how much you hate him.” And Ralph suddenly gets so mad he grabs the guy by the shirt and he tells him, “What I say about Norton is one thing. How I feel about him is another.” And Ralph runs down to the hospital. Ralph offers a blood transfusion for his buddy…and Norton tears up when he realizes Ralph was there for him. “You would do that for me? You’re the greatest buddy in the world.”

That grounds everything. That feeling, that bond, that personal connection between Ralph and Norton. That’s a great moment. That’s a key to why that show is considered great. In spite of it all, they cherished each other. While we are laughing or crying about something, the message is coming through.

Whenever candidates ask me what sets apart our school, I look to our Mission Statement, that paragraph that should guide us, and at the end it offers the crucial and often unsaid dictum that should guide a school, perhaps any organization: we should “cherish one another.”

This was just one more day, one more long day, but some cherishing going on. I hope that great math candidate comes and joins us.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Life at the Fair

Oh, my. This is the longest I have been blog-less, or rather, not writing the blog, since its inception 67 months ago. Have I run out of things to say??!??!

No, I have been hanging out a Fair.

In the old days when I talked of a Fair, it meant one thing: the Ohio State Fair. I didn’t grow up going to fairs—remember, I am at heart, an urban boy with little desire to see animals in their natural state (haven’t you read enough blog entries to know I do not enjoy riding animals??) But starting in 1980, the concept of “Fair” changed mightily when I was selected to be part of the All Ohio State Fair Youth Choir. That summer, the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, being at the Fair, probably changed my life. The Fair was a wonderful excuse to leave the real world behind—we lived on the fairgrounds, all 300 of us in the choir, and we sang 110 concerts in about 20 days. That’s a lot of singing and socializing. Not a bad way to spend time! And of course, at night, we all became like carnies, wandering the fairgrounds, doing whatever before the curfew in the dorms. We wore uniforms. We made instant friendships. We ate a lot of fair food. We collapsed into bed at night and woke up bright and early. Then at the end of the fair, we went back to our other lives.

Ha! That was in 1980. In 1981 I went with a part of that choir on my first European tour. In 1983 I was a counselor at the Fair with the choir the year my sister had been selected. Over the last 30 years I have gone back probably 20 times for Alumni Days in August. One of my dearest friends in adulthood, Tony Buscemi, was in the choir the year I was a counselor. And I have breakfast twice a year with a friend from my 1980 summer at the Fair. Since 1980 that concept of “The Fair” has always been a symbol of the halcyon days of youth. Wonderment! Friendship! It is certainly not exactly like the real world…

So in 2013, as of this week, I have spent equal times at a Fair and equal times in my real world (and by real world, let’s be honest—I live in a gated community slash beautiful campus in the Middle East…but that is as “real” as my world gets 75% of the year!)

I have been away from the blog, and silent, and exhausted because of a Fair. Not the Ohio State Fair, natch, and not a Fair with Funnel Cakes or Choirs or Country Stars, but Job Fairs. I have been to 6 job fairs in 2013 and it has kept me busy busy busy!

Actually, when I read my description a couple paragraphs back of the State Fair Youth Choir back in my choir days, it isn’t as far off as one might think from the 2013 job fairs…let’s see, if I substitute a few words, it really is so similar! I have been to six job fairs this year (two in Bangkok, 1 in London, 2 in Boston, and 1 in San Francisco) and I interviewed about 267 people for half-hour interviews each. That’s a lot of interviewing and socializing. And at night, one becomes like a “carnie” in the hotel, going to the socializers, the mixers (they actually use that word in 2 of the fairs) making instant friends of the people you hope to attract to your school, sad to say good-bye when they reject you or go home. You work from dawn to dusk. You stuff your face at the breakfast buffet. You fall into bed exhausted. You wake up the next morning ready to go and smile and interview. And you wear a suit and tie—essentially, your school uniform. The job fair world exists in fancy ballrooms and suites and hotel breakfast buffets, and then at the end, you go back to your real world.

The job fair world is not so far away from the State Fair Choir World, except instead of standing and singing, I am sitting and interviewing. And I look better in my suits and ties than I did in the choir uniform—although, in 1980, I must have been pretty studly and tanned if you look at my State Fair Choir photo.

By the way, this August marks the 50th anniversary of the inception of the All Ohio State Fair Youth Choir. I will be there again, and will be part of a 1000-voice choir singing its praises and traipsing down memory lane. Ahhhh…

Since I can’t leave well enough alone with only one connection, hmmmm….there is another connection as well. You know I am obsessed with Downton Abbey. I am two episodes away from the end of Season 3 (yes, I know what happens in the end—the spoilers were all over Facebook) and I adore the show. I watch it with Peter and Hadley, two of our teaching fellow interns this year. Anyway, I was thinking how much life at the job fairs is like Downton Abbey. Hmmm… Downton Abbey treats every character, the members of the family and the members of their staff, equally, in terms of their narrative strength. That is certainly among the keys of its success. On the show, they all have emotional lives, dreams, ambitions and disappointments, and a back story.

That is like the job fair. When you show up at the job fair, there is a sign-up time. There are about 200 schools at each fair, with anywhere from 400-700 candidates, all wondering where they might end up. You stand behind your table in the ballroom, all 200 schools, and the bell rings, and the candidates are let into the ballroom. They move around, looking at the schools from A-Z (seriously, from Angola to Zimbabwe!) and what jobs are available in each school. They form a line, you meet them for about 60 seconds, set up an interview time, then research the candidates, trying to decide who will be the best match with your school. From that initial meeting you learn about them, meet them by the elevators, exchange smiles at the breakfast buffet, puts notes in files, wait for the interviews and try and develop a relationship in 36 hours. In the interviews and reading the confidential reference letters, you learn about their emotional lives, dreams, ambitions, and disappointments. In the interviews you piece together their back story.

I guess that’s where the tie between Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey and the All Ohio State Fair Youth Choir is so similar—it is about those relationships that keep you interested and obsessed. That exciting moment when lives intersect!

So I have been at the fairs. I always think I am going to go back to my hotel room in the evening, snuggle up with a good book, write a blog entry, and enjoy a quiet evening for hours. One new pursuit this year is that I would go back to the hotel room, make a podcast for my AP Art History class back in Jordan, send the podcast by email, but then I would fall into bed. Usually by 9:30! The days are long—we meet for breakfast at 6:30 or 7:00, begin the work, and plow through for over 12 hours. Yes, I think I feel like one of the servants in my beloved Downton Abbey, although I dress more like Matthew Crawley.

The highlight of these job fairs is meeting the interesting people. It would fill many pages of the blog to chronicle the people I have met—ex-pats working in Burma trying to find the right school fit and mend a marriage; the single man in Bangkok trying to land a history teaching gig and live in an exciting place as a 30-something; the loud, funny, Mainline-Philly woman in London trying to find a school where she will fit; older people like Anne and Carl looking for a last adventure; college seniors like Dan and Meg trudging over in the blizzard in Cambridge hoping for a placement before the last semester is underway; Zach, the senior who speaks Old Slavonic hoping that a school might place him; the Denison graduate Guari who thrilled me with her deep knowledge of English literature, India, and Granville; the polite Pakistani math wunderkind named Adam who had an offer from every school on the planet; Melissa, the bubbly theater teacher from Charleston whom we charmed and then lost in San Francisco (I guess more money in Abu Dhabi means more than charm!); the California couple who exuded such excitement at the mere thought that KA would want to interview them; the English woman in Bangkok who charmed us and dumped us with the most cursory email I have ever seen; the charming Ellen who accepted our offer and I knew in a moment we will be BFFs next year; the sister-brother pair that astounded us with their scholarship, commitment to boarding school life, and ties to a legendary education family; the couple in Bangkok that when they left, head John Austin proclaimed, “They are creepy.” Ahhh…it has been a whirlwind 8 weeks with the six fairs.

John Austin and I went to all six of those together—three of them were with colleague Lilli, 1 with colleague Mazen, and 2 with colleague Reem. What bonding you do when you are together non-stop at least 12 hours a day!! The best part of the job fairs comes when you are trying to close the deal, and hoping they will join us in Jordan. Inevitably, at that point they begin to interview us. Is it safe? Do you like it? What challenges do you face? John lets us answer these important queries, and I have been known to mist up when I talk about my nearly six-years at the school. It is as if all the blog entries are right at the tip of my tongue and I try and articulate what has been so important, challenging, life-changing and inspiring about being at KA.

Not so far from being in the All Ohio State Fair Choir. Both have taught me grit.

As we walked back into our hotel in San Francisco on the bay, Reem sighed and said, “So many lives changing here in this hotel.”

One more strange connection between Downton Abbey and the job fairs. Okay, I am remembering a New Yorker cartoon from last February depicting a couple standing at a crossroad. A sign in the cartoon indicates that Downton Abbey is to the right and the Jersey Shore is to the left. A couple stands at the sign deciding which pop-culture road they should take. Jersey Shore, that infamous reality show (I have never seen it, but I know so much about it, since the characters are ubiquitous!) about, as I understand, people partying, drinking, and participating in various kinds of mayhem. Jersey Shore is one of MTV’s highest ratest programs. Downton Abbey is PBS’s highest ratest program. I guess one of the things I haven’t resorted to—yet—is asking candidates which of the two programs they most prefer! Maybe that would help during some of the deadlocks in our decision-making!