In a typically inane but funny episode of “Seinfeld,” George becomes upset when his girlfriend becomes friends with Elaine, claiming that his “worlds will collide” between his private life ("Relationship George") and his separate life with Jerry, Elaine and Kramer ("Independent George"), producing a catastrophic effect. Here’s a short clip from that episode:
Seeing this, I couldn’t but help to think about my own life as a Catholic school teacher and principal, where the “worlds” of my life have collided since the very beginning. It was an August in-service as a 23 year old first year teacher at Montgomery Catholic High where I met Diane Mayhan, a biology and math teacher at the school. She became my wife ten months later, and over one hundred of our students attended the wedding. During the early years, we drove to work together, prepared lessons until late at night, and experienced the joy and frustrations of teaching together. Fourteen years later, our oldest son began his freshman year at that same high school where I had now become the principal, the first of all four of my children to do so. I’ve taught three of my children as juniors or seniors in theology classes. My wife now teaches Geometry at the school of which I am headmaster.
If George is right, I must be a miserable wretch.
But he’s not. And I'm not! In fact, it’s been one of the great blessings of my life that my family life and school life merge. When I go to athletic events, I don’t go just as headmaster of the school. I go as “Dad” in support of my kids and the school my children attend. I get to know their friends in a way that few parents do. Their friends get to know me. We never have to worry about synching vacation schedules. If I want to know what the kids think about the new school policy, I don’t have to go too far to find out, and if they don’t like what I’ve done, I don’t even have to ask!
I’ve botched it a few times, such as when the football coach benched my son at QB in the middle of the season and I said a few unkind things about him and had to apologize on Monday. From the perspective of my children, I occasionally say “too much personal stuff” to the teachers about them, embarrassing them. (My son’s college entrance essay started “When your father is the principal, every time he walks into the teacher’s lounge could be a teacher-parent conference about you.”) But I’ve had some fun with it, too. I told my teenage daughter she couldn’t date anyone until I checked his transcript and disciplinary file. She was not amused.
I am beginning my 24th year as principal in a few days, and my youngest son will be starting his last year of high school—just one more year of the colliding worlds. Quoting the simple prayer of Dag Hammarskjol, former Secretary General of the United Nations:
“For all that has been—thanks. For all that will be—yes!”