Wake Up Call

I was having a conversation at work yesterday during a supervision session with one of my staff.  He’s a good guy, a ton of experience, well-respected by just about the entire staff.  He recounted a comment that one of his hallway-mates made about a presentation he did at a recent staff retreat.  She’d said “Wow, we really got to see another side of you!”  He wasn’t quite sure what to make of that so asked, “What do you mean?”  She responded that typically he’s viewed as “all business”.  He was not so happy with that idea, but it’s kind of true.

It got me thinking about who in my life has held up a mirror for me. A particular person who pointed out when something I’d done or said caused me to be seen in a way that was, no matter how unintentional, not what I wanted to project to the world. I’m sure there have been more than a few people who’ve helped me out, and today for some reason I was thinking about this one:  Sister Madeline.

I graduated from college in 1985 and while I was a student I did my fair share of drinking and whatnot.  When I moved back home after graduation I continued some of that drinking behavior while reuniting with high school friends that had also moved back home. We job hunted in our respective fields by day and waited tables or tended bar by night.  In December that year, one week before Christmas, I actually got my first teaching job; sixth grade, as well as science for grades 5-8, at a Catholic school in Coventry.    A “challenge” does not come close to describing the kids at this school.  Not only were they all jazzed up because it was just one week until the Christmas vacation, I was the third new teacher that was in front of them in just four months.

On a school night some time in the spring that year, I decided to go out.  I met a friend for dinner which turned into drinks, then more drinks, and then more.  I’m not so sure how I drove myself home that night, but I did get home.  The next morning I remember the phone ringing.  I heard the incessant noise of the ringing for about two minutes straight and then I realized that anyone else in the apartment may already be gone for the day; I picked up the phone.  It was Sister Madeline, the principal of the school where I was teaching.  She asked if I somewhat curtly if I “was coming in to school today?”  I let her know that I would be to the school within half an hour.

I did get to the school, appropriately hung over and inappropriately dressed in jeans and a sweater.  I was mortified by the fact that the principal of the school had to serve as my alarm clock to rouse me from an alcohol induced sleep.  To refer to this as a “wake up call” would be to say that’s exactly what it was, literally and figuratively.

Did I continue down my path of going out on school nights and being less than prepared as a teacher, no I did not.  Do I have Sister Madeline to thank for that, yes I do!

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