Message from the Superintendent


August 11, 2015

Dear Colleagues:

Lunch was finished and we had settled into our seats in 4th period Chemistry class.  Mr “Leo” McIntee  a beloved high school teacher was showing us a movie about a mole being a unit of measurement and not a furry little creature that digs holes in lawns.  He was a great person and had so much school spirit, he would even come out of the stands at sporting events and enthusiastically lead crowd participation in cheers.  In this class, it was a pretty typical mix of high school students and nearly every desk was filled, so there was such a great audience for the movie and for what was about to happen next. 

One of our classmates, “Bobby” - a nice, smart and rather shy student, was sitting in the front row just to the side of the movie being projected on the classroom screen.  Now this was the olden days in the 1970s, so it was a real movie projection coming from a clickitty old projector casting a powerful light and image on the screen.  We were maybe 10 minutes into the movie when Bobby jumped from his seat and ran towards the lab sink in the front of the room and “lost his lunch” quite literally.  It made this almost sci-fi Godzilla like image and shadow on the movie screen as it traveled across the air.  Then again, just before he made it to the sink still gasping and holding the counter for stability. 

Everyone was in shock and holding their own stomach with their arms crossed.  It seemed like minutes, but really in just seconds, Mr. McIntee switched off the movie and turned on the classroom lights.  He made his way over to Bobby who was standing alone in front of the entire class, grasping the sink.  In addition to feeling awful enough to lose his lunch in the first place, Bobby appeared to be trembling in embarrassment by getting sick in front of the entire class, and for all to see on the big screen no less!

Thoughts and possible reactions to this event were racing through the minds of students in the class.  I was there and this was true for me as well.  What do we do?  What do we say?  What happens next?  Then, in his most perfect way, as he stood beside Bobby with his arm gently holding him, Mr. McIntee said calmly and so apologetically, “Bobby, I am so sorry, I didn’t think the movie was that bad!”  At once, the tension in the room disappeared and laughter erupted, all of it was directed at Leo’s comment.

In the minutes that followed, Leo had a couple students escort Bobby to the nurse’s office and got the custodian to address the mess.  While this was happening, he then spoke to the class about how awkward Bobby was going to feel after this and for all of us to be mindful of how we spoke about it and most importantly how we interacted with Bobby about the event.  The next day we saw Bobby, no one teased him because of what Leo had said, and most expressed hope that Bobby was feeling better and were sincere in sharing how sorry they were that he got sick.  The only part of this story that ever gained traction to create a story or live beyond the incident was Mr. McIntee’s perfect words in that moment, “Bobby, I am so sorry, I didn’t think the movie was that bad!”

After so many years, I don’t recall too much about the periodic table, a mole, or other related information.  However, I always remember how a teacher took a moment that could have had an adverse impact on one student for the rest of his life and made it a powerful lesson in using humor, redirection, and showing compassion.  I remember Leo who made real life into a teachable moment of understanding for a bunch of high school kids that would eventually grow up to go out in the world and pay it forward!

Soon school will start and you, in whatever role or work you do, will be interacting with students and other adults.  Do you have their backs when things happen to them in your presence?  How will we act in those teachable moments? Thank you in advance for bringing your best to each person, every day!





Last Modified on August 11, 2015