I met a retired headmaster

by Rod Smith

I sat and chatted at a Halloween function with a retired headmaster from a prestigious school in Indianapolis. He’s a loved neighbor to close friends but not someone I had previously met. His answers to my questions took me by surprise.

“After 20 years as head of one of our leading public schools what was your proudest accomplishment?” I asked. I really expected him to say the new basketball gym or the football stadium.

“The traditional five-paragraph essay,” he said without a momentary pause.

“Every graduate of our school knew about the structure of the five-paragraph essay and I believe that was one of the best things I introduced.”

I told him that I found his answer refreshing and that I was surprised his answer had no reference to sport or buildings.

“Oh, we did all that! Stadiums, trophies, bands, and so forth – but I most proud that all of our students could represent themselves well on paper.”

“What makes an exceptional teacher?” I asked.

“Well, of course knowledge and love of the subject is essential,” he said, “but when hiring a teacher I looked for the candidate who loved people at least as much as the subject. That’s what I always looked for.”

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