Over this holiday season, my family and I were lucky enough to stay at the historic Hotel Del Coronado for a few days. During the month of December, in an attempt to make a winter wonderland out of this Southern California seaside landmark, the hotel erects a small ice skating rink. My girls, true beach kids, had never been on ice before and were dying to give it a go, so we rented four sets of skates, laced up their tiny feet and wobbled our way onto the slippery rink. Initially, we clung to the wall and each other for our lives and our dignity. Eventually, we took some risks and had some falls, but by the end of our two-hour time slot, some of us were even skating backwards — that would be my wife, and she would want you all to know it was her and not me who mastered this particular skill.
I tell you this story because upon reflecting on our time out on the rink together, I could not help but be reminded of a poem by Robert Bly about teachers: “When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake/We place our feet where they have never been/We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy/ Who is down there but our old teachers?/Water that once could take no human weight — we were students then — holds up our feet/And goes on ahead of us for a mile/Beneath us the teachers, and around us the stillness.”
Born and raised in San Diego, I have been fortunate enough to attend, teach and lead some great schools. What is unique about TPHS? It is the teaching — this includes our teachers, our coaches, our parents and our students. We are all, as a community, embracing the role of educators in making this truly a learning institution, or as Bly suggests, we are building on “Water that once could take no human weight — then holds up our feet.”
Academically, I cannot help but be impressed with the challenging material our students undertake and the way in which our teachers make it both accessible and exciting. I recently visited a Calculus D class. I would love to say I knew exactly what they were learning, but honestly, it was a bit over my head. However, all students were engaged and interested, and I am sure I am smarter just for having been in there for the period.
Creatively, one of my favorite parts of the principal job is attending and observing the incredible performances of TP Players, dance team and the cheerleading squad. As I waited to enter the recent production of “Argonautika,” playgoers were greeted with the chance to spend some time admiring the stunning art produced by our visual and digital art classes. While perusing, I felt a deep appreciation for the creation of thought-provoking and beautiful art; something where there once was nothing, created from one student’s vast imagination. Or, as the poem states, “Walk[ing] upon the unwalked.”
As a sports fan, there is nothing like Friday night high school football. Standing out on the field at halftime of our first home game, one cannot help but be impressed by how much goes into playing on Friday night. Players spend five months sweating, bleeding, crying and celebrating together for a common goal. Coaches sacrifice their personal lives to ensure their players are prepared each week. The cheer team, dance team and band spend countless hours practicing in an effort to entertain and elevate school spirit. The parents of all of the participants provide unabashed fiscal and emotional support to each of the TPHS programs. And the students stand with pride, cheering our Falcons to victory.
When I attend each sporting event and watch how our students compete, and how they win and lose with grace, I am reminded that high school athletes are also role models to younger kids. I made a point recently to introduce my youngest daughter, Charlotte, to a few TPHS girls volleyball players. You should have seen my little girl’s eyes light up when the players approached her. Charlotte would not stop talking about them for the whole ride home.
In closing, as I look around at our big TPHS ice skating rink, I see a school that offers an abundance of opportunity and a dedication to excellence that, for our students, has paved a road that “goes on ahead for a mile.” Yes, that road may at times be slippery, and they may fall, but no doubt they will make their way onto their feet again. As the principal of Torrey Pines High School, it is a tremendous honor and privilege to be part of their journey.