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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Lessons from a school night

March 26, 2014|By Joe Puglia

I enjoy the La Cañada High School open house. It’s a chance to hang with my buddies Bill Decker, Mike Riley and David Vaughn. All we need is a bottle of Jack Daniels, a few cigars, and we’d be in hog heaven. This year I was more serious. I didn’t want to embarrass my wife, Kaitzer, in case she decides to run for president.

I thought of “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu: “The plan is useless; but planning is essential.” So I made a plan. I would start at the top and keep on walking till I came to the end. That didn’t work, since I didn’t have a clue where I was going. There’s wisdom in Robert Burns’ assumption, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry!” I followed an old mantra: adapt and overcome.

Since I’m an information junkie, I headed to the IRC (Information Resource Center — in my day they called it the library). There, I was enthralled by the presentations of the honors social science classes of Julie Hong. What caught my attention was the enthusiasm of the students. They were magnificent; I could have listened to them all night.

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It was time to move on and visit the teachers. I was curious to meet those who had endeared themselves to my children. Teaching is leaving a remnant of one’s self in the expansion of another. Effective teachers leave a vestige of their idiosyncratic ways on their students. There’s an old Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready the master appears.”

I made it as far as the library’s vestibule, where walls were draped with painting and photography. The students’ artistic expression told a deeper story than what was exhibited. Picasso said, “Every child is an artist.”

It was now or never. I had to make a second attempt! I couldn’t leave without meeting a teacher. I knew Kaitzer would ask.

“Fortune favors the committed,” Von Clausewitz wrote in “On War.” I ran into Madelyn Merchant. Serendipity! She directed me to Ben Powers’ English class. Her directions were complicated but thorough. If I left immediately, I’d get there by Sunday night. I felt like Algernon navigating the maze. I met Powers and was pleased for Sabine to have such a remarkable teacher.

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