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The hardest decision—choosing where home is

March 23, 2012
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If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know I often speak with extreme fondness of the school I began my teaching career at, St. Andrew’s School. I am bonded to this school for so many reasons—it taught me to truly love learning, it showed me that a school could truly be a community of adults and and students working as one to live up to the highest ideals of a mission statement, it gave me some of my very best friends, and it even introduced me to my wife. I still read the chapel talks of St. Andrew’s headmaster when I find myself needing a bit of inspiration. For 7 years, St. Andrew’s was home to me.

Based on this, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that when the opportunity came to move back there to teach physics, I leapt at the opportunity. But the real story is so much more complicated. Atlanta has always been home for both my wife and I. It is difficult to describe how wonderful it is to have both of our families so close by, and how much I enjoy watching Maddie bond with her grandparents—it’s something I wish I had growing up.

I have also enjoyed working at my current school, where I work everyday with amazing colleagues, many of whom have become treasured friends, and developed professional networks with physics teachers and other independent school teachers all around the city. There aren’t many schools out there where I get to play with a plasma cutter, or work with a licensed clinical psychologist to study Mindset and try to reproduce Carol Dweck’s work.

The two body problem of the modern family is also a challenging one. My wife does incredible work working for Southface, where she helps to states adopt and enforce energy efficiency codes that are making buildings far more energy efficient. The original reason I left St. Andrew’s was that rural Delaware didn’t really offer many viable job opportunities for her.

But much of that has changed recently. St. Andrew’s has offered Diana a position as Director of Sustainability, and is working to install a 1 MW solar power project through a solar power purchase agreement. Also, revisiting the school with our daughter has reminded us of what a enchanted experience it is for a child to grow up in a boarding school, able to freely explore a 2000 acre campus, with 300 big brothers and sisters looking out for her. In many ways, it’s the ideal neighborhood from 50s childhood fantasy—where neighbors really know another, kids play all day, and just have to be home by dinner. And the thought of having a commute that is just a walk across the campus, rather than a bumper to bumper drive through the downtown connector is mighty appealing.

And so, after many conversations and a lot of thinking, we’ve decided to make this move based mostly on faith in the extraordinary nature of the St. Andrew’s community. I am incredibly excited, in physics, I’ll be working with Mark Hammond again, my former mentor, and Kelly O’Shea, both of whom I have so much to learn from.

But at the same time, I’m sad to leave many incredible colleagues and friends. Hopefully, social media (and the occasional phone call), won’t let me down and we can keep these connections strong.

Thanks for indulging me in a bit of narcissistic musing about this transition. The one other bit of news for you is that my move means my school is now looking for not just one, but two physics teachers. So why don’t you apply now?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Bartley Griffith permalink
    March 24, 2012 6:51 am

    I admire the thoughtfulness and courage you model in making this decision. You will obviously be missed in Atlanta, but it does sound as if you are “going home.” St. Andrews is lucky (and smart) to have you back.

  2. March 24, 2012 11:06 am

    John, we are so excited to have you and your family back on campus. See you soon!

  3. March 24, 2012 12:49 pm

    Best of luck John. Not many people get an opportunity to leave a fantastic job and situation for another even more fantastic job and situation.

    • March 24, 2012 9:16 pm

      John, I suspect you, Kelly and Mark will be setting some sort of edublogging density record.

  4. Frank Lock permalink
    March 24, 2012 5:32 pm

    You will be missed. I am happy to have had the opportunity to get to know you, and wish you well.

  5. March 24, 2012 7:21 pm

    John, good luck! My bet is that you’ll be happier working with the likes of Mark Hammond and Kelly O’Shea. From what little I know of them (and a touch more of you), it seems like they are more ‘your type’, and share some more of your philosophies.

  6. March 26, 2012 8:55 pm

    Proud of you, John.

  7. April 18, 2012 3:11 am

    Wow, I just saw this. St. Andrews is very lucky to get you back. Gosh, you are going to have the best-physics-department-ever! It is very hard to have the 2 body problem, it is wonderful that this worked out for both of you. Your daughter is one lucky girl. :)

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