Marney My Mentor

“if I have seen further [than others], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

1675 letter by Isaac Newton:

The reason I am still in, and will continue to be in education is Marney Wamsley.  Why this happened, I do not know.  I am grateful that it did.

Here is HOW it happened. My first principal was an ex-Marine Corps colonel.  I learned power, courage, and political savvy.  Thank you, Ken.  My second principal was another ex-college wrestler from Iowa.  I learned action-oriented, courage to confront issues, and visibility.

In 1977 Marney came as a colleague to the high school as a colleague where I worked. We were assistant principals in a high school  10-12 with 1800 students.  I found out that she had been a nun in her former life and had lots of experience in schools.  We quickly developed a trusting relationship. She did mostly scheduling and curriculum; I did mostly attendance, discipline, and parking lot.  We complemented each other’s strengths. Our principal retired in about 1981 the district hired a principal from outside the district.  Let’s just say it was not the best choice.  Marney and If became closer becasue we had to rely on each other rather than the lead principal.

After one year, the superintendent did not renew the new principal and named Marney as the principal. Since I trusted Marney completely, I was willing to listen and take feedback from her. An Example: Marney was in the main office, I was dealing with a student who was not adhering to our policies.  The student ran out through the main hallway swearing and me and me swearing at him.  He was younger and ran faster. I came back in from chasing him out the front door and Marney looked at me and shrugged.  Then she walked into her office.  I followed her and said, “what?”  Marney calmly looked at me and said, “you don’t have to kill everyone.”  Me, being into power and control said, “why not?”  OK I didn’t think it through, I learned patience and perspective.

Another of the many lessons was, I complained about a teacher who was not submitting requests etc. on time. So, I was whining.  Marney said, “have you seen him teach?” I said ‘no’ and a few other choice words.  Marney said, “go see him teach and then come back and tell me what you think.”  The teacher was from another country teaching Spanish. He was tough AND amazing.  The students always scored high on the AP exams.  Marney taught me to observe before making quick judgments.

I could fill pages of the many lessons she taught me.  In 1983 I told Marney I was going to quit education.  Being the executioner was killing me.  She said, “before you quit, go see Art Costa;   training in thinking skills.”  I responded, “what does thinking skills have to do with schools?”

At Art’s workshop he opened with a statement, “I am not interested in how a student behaves when he knows the answer to something  I AM interested in how a student behaves when he doesn’t know the answer to something.”  I WAS SPEECHLESS.  Then I followed not only Habits of Mind training but also Cognitive Coaching and Reflective Practice. That my friends, is why I am still in education.  What does a teacher do when you don’t have the answer?  What does a principal do when you don’t know the answer? These questions are fundamental to education.

One more deep learning for me.  One of Marney’s favorite quotes was, “there is no substitute for brains.”  What do you know?  What do you NOT know?  What is the outcome you want?

 Marney gave me a pathway to learn, adapt, and contribute to others. She always, yes always, was looking for the best outcome for the greatest number of students, staff, and community.

Marney was a woman and professional of GRACE.  Her friendship and lessons remain with me forever.  I was touched by an angel, and I am grateful.

Mahalo for being able to stand on your shoulders. Rest well, dear friend.  Your amazing impact lives on.