Scrubbing the Stage


I was wandering around campus last Friday around 11:00 a.m., having made the necessary preparations for the students to arrive in my class on Monday, when I came across Caroline Bisi on the stage in Price Auditorium.  She had in her hand the working end of a Swiffer floor scrubber, and she was leaning on it pretty heavily.  While intent on her work, she did not look unhappy or frustrated.  In a paragraph or two I’ll get back to why this is so important. 

Mr. Manning greets students with a handshake on their first day of school.

Mr. Manning greets students with a handshake on their first day of school.



The week of faculty meetings prior to the opening of school has followed the same pattern and rhythms since I arrived in August of 1986.  We hear from the President of the Board of Trustees (this year it is Tim Stiffler) first thing Monday, and then Dennis Manning introduces each new member of faculty and staff – this year it is 22! –  along with each one’s mentor.  And then he turns the tables, asking the rookies to retake their seats while he calls to their feet the most long-serving members of the faculty.  He invites the men and women at both ends of that spectrum to come together and support each other in this enterprise we call a school year.

Faculty members are excited for the 2017-2018 school year.

Faculty members are excited for the 2017-2018 school year.

After lunch we have the necessary nuts and bolts of information from the business office.  This year Jeff Martin got us done in time to view the eclipse.  Tuesday and Wednesday are filled with various and sundry meeting by interest – school divisions, academic departments, athletics and the like.  Thursday morning brings a discussion of our honor system led by members of the Tunstall Honor Council, an annual exercise of supreme importance, by the way. The week concludes with serious professional reminders and charges from the Headmaster, and finally his annual reading of “Magic in September,” by Father Timothy Healy, long-time President of Georgetown University.  It evokes beautifully the miracle of education and ends with the perfect tag line – “It is good to begin again.”  I get weepily sentimental every year.  Rising seniors arrive for lunch and we are officially underway.

While the week is long and absolutely necessary, it is in large part not very exciting.  It has the designed purpose of getting faculty really charged up to get out of their seats in Johnson Theater and other meeting rooms and into their classrooms and their coaching spaces.  Friday is labeled a “teacher work day,” and the faculty takes full advantage of the time . . . which brings us back to Ms. Bisi leaning on a modern day mop.

The students’ joy was evident as they were reunited with classmates.

That work symbolizes a passion for the act of teaching.  She is, like all of the rest of us, so committed to giving her students the best possible experience in her space that peeling marking tape off a painted wood floor is not a chore – it’s what she does.  (When I asked her about it Monday morning she beamed and said something on the order of, “OMG, that floor really needed the work!  But now it’s beautiful!!”)  After seeing her Friday morning I reversed my field and walked the halls of Royster.  There was Suzie Coker putting new colored paper over her bulletin boards, there were Woody Poole and Witt Borum hunched together over a desk-top computer, putting their year’s calendar on the new Canvas course page, there was Elizabeth Staub working on speech deadline sheets for each of 109 ninth-graders. All smiling and upbeat.

Every single one of us is, to use an old phrase, “fired up” for the kids to arrive.  I know, I know, there’s the old idiom, “Those that can, do – those that can’t, teach.”  Not at this place.  As I wandered around my building I wanted to sneak in every middle school family to watch these dedicated professionals basking in their work.  The same applies, of course, in the other two divisions.  In lieu of being able to do that, this chronicle is to let you know that we, as a faculty, are once again elated to be able to follow our respective callings.

Father Healy says that one of the real pleasures of being on a great faculty is the “silent conspiracy” that forms among them for the benefit of students.  The conspiracy doesn’t just happen.  It springs from the love of children and the happy willingness to do what it takes to serve them.

The stage looks awesome, by the way.   

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