Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An update from Yale: Week 1

There are so many versions of the "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" cliche that I'm tempted to just list them all right here & leave my summary of my first week here at Yale at that. But that wouldn't be fair. It wouldn't be right. To be truthful, it's made me more alive & wise than I've been in years. It's been the sort of challenge that anyone with any sort of ambition or grateful nature would kill for. In short, I'm about two inches from in over my head and loving every single minute on the edge.
A bit of background: I am an Academic Dean in a summer program for highly gifted and talented students attending Yale University for this three week session. It's an intense, academically rigorous program and I'm in charge of everything that is academically rigorous. The numbers demonstrate that: 74 classes, 32 instructors. Among them, published authors, Ivy League Professors, etc. It's perhaps the most talented group of educators anywhere, and I've somehow managed to become their leader. I'm fortunate to have another Ashley with me, here, who makes all of this quite possible. In addition to speaking Mandarin fluently, she's got a life that's taken her all over the world. She is fearless and brilliant and she is what gets me through most of these very long, very hard days. Together, we make this happen. We visited 36 classes in one day. We know this campus, these courses, their materials, their instructional frameworks and their academic budgets, all too well. Between the two of us and our overachiever brains, we can pull up details on any of these 32 faculty members, the daily lessons they share with our genius children, and the classrooms which make all of this academic magic happen each day.
Our office staff is true camp staff in that they are, without question, some of the best folks I've ever met. I adore these people & they were the sort who were strangers only for the first five minutes I met them. Following that, we were family. We are family. I mean no offense to my very wonderful and gracious circle of friends down South, but know this: you've got competition. New England has once again stolen my heart and made me all too aware of professional possibilities here in the north.
The other piece of this gigantic summer job puzzle are the TAs, who double as counselors here on site and are young-mostly college age, from everywhere, including Scotland & England. They're brilliant and far more capable and literate that I ever recall being at age 20. We've built solid bonds that I'd like to believe will last past my time with them. So many of them want to be teachers & I'm hopeful that this experience will propel them into that career. It is, after all, the greatest job in the world & children everywhere would be awfully lucky to be taught by any of these folks.
Yale, itself is surreal. Every inch of this campus breaks my heart. The buildings, the old old books, and the bike paths that I take daily-as part of my "job," mind you-are by far the most beautiful I've ever seen. New Haveners, too, are lovely. I've met several locals in coffee shops & around the town and am now quite sure that southern hospitality can, indeed, extend north.
I think that's quite an update. I should sleep now, as these days top 17 hours nearly every day & the morning brings more teacher observations. Just know that I'm here and lucky and happy. So very, very happy.

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