The paths (not) taken: Clinical Professor John (Guillermo) Hardman

I’ve been married now (2017) for 46 years. Thank you. The secret? Wrong question, but I’ll answer it anyway. Marriage takes hard work borne of love and mutual respect. In my case, Rochelle is the person I am not. She is expressive, direct, and principled. I become these traits myself, but only in small doses. Otherwise, I am alone with my thoughts, an observer more than a joiner. Yet, I enjoy collaboration, with the right people, as part of my professional life. For a world traveler, it is Rochelle who gets me out of the house.

For example, when my daughter, Sara traveled to Ecuador on her high school Spring Break to be with a classmate, I was tasked (by Rochelle) to bring her home safely. Really. No problem. My first instinct – always – is to look to do some educational work. I went to my then department chair, John Pisapia (see Old School blog), for suggestions. He reminded me that one of our doctoral students owned a private international school in Quito, among other places around the world. Enseguida, I arranged an expense-paid professional development trip to do a series of bilingual educational leadership workshops. My ESL teaching background and having lived in Central America and Puerto Rico gave me the skills to do this.

Upon arriving, I was met by the school’s principal, John (Guillermo) Hardman – a rather distinguished looking gentleman with prematurely gray hair. He spoke with a clipped British accent, the result of attending British schools in Buenos Ares, his hometown in Argentina. I had arrived during end-of-school year activities, so teachers were free half the day to voluntarily attend my leadership workshops. Half the faculty were bilingual, fluent in Spanish and English; the other half struggled with English – a serious issue for a school advertising itself as a bilingual institution.

In addition to conducting my workshops, I attended many of the end-of-year celebrations. And, as all of us who have been school leaders know, the end of the year is also a time when teachers are told whether they will be offered new contracts to return the next year. Making my informal rounds of the different classrooms, I remember one conversation almost verbatim. A young man said to me quite unexpectedly:

“My teaching evaluations were not satisfactory; I won’t be returning next year. But I learned so much from Mr. Hardman and I am so grateful for this experience.”

I didn’t know how to respond. Here was a teacher who had just been let go and was praising his principal and the opportunities he had been given to learn. This teacher had been attending my workshops and his language skills in English were not very good. I started to thank him for coming when he stopped me and said, he would be present at the next day’s session.