When my appointment with Mickey arrived, I cautiously entered his office, wondering what my fate would be. Would I pass his classes or be doomed to retake them all? It bewildered me that this one man had the power to decide my future.
He beckoned me in, and I took a seat. I finally looked at him, and he broke into a grin. He reviewed my written assignments, and I’d gotten an A+ on each of them. I smiled, sighed, and waited for him to blast me on my journal.
He began by telling me that he was impressed by the detail, reflection, and growth I’d displayed. He called me tenacious and reminded me that he’d been right by refusing to accept less than my best. He chuckled when he recalled reading my description of him early on—and didn’t seem to mind a bit that I’d thought he was an ass. He said that he didn’t care what I’d thought of him because his job was to coach, prod, challenge, and make me as prepared as possible to be a principal.
I took a deep breath as I took it all in. Mickey had been painfully honest with me, and I’d done the same with him, through my journal.
He expanded on his philosophy by telling me he believed being honest and challenging with his students, teachers, and others ultimately brought out the best in those who were capable. In contrast, those who weren’t cut out for their positions tended to take a second look at whether they should continue on their chosen path. He told me that he didn’t believe in bullshitting anyone, including his students. Then Mickey said to me that he saw a lot of himself in me. ME! And he thought I would go on to do great things.
I had earned an A+ on the journal. I received an A+ for the 9 hours of graduate credit from Mickey’s class.
I finished the six hours left for my initial certification that summer. I was hired as an administrator one week before my younger son turned one.
I was the first person from Mickey’s class to secure an administrative position.
He had been right about me, after all.
In retrospect, my initial characterization of him was wrong.
Mickey continued to mentor me throughout my time as an assistant principal. He encouraged me when I decided to go back into the classroom to have more time with my school-age sons. He advised me as I became an Adjunct Professor, where I taught Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and Statistics. And he told me that if I felt the time was right to retire at 50—I should!
Mickey has been a dear friend for over 25 years. We email at least weekly, usually daily, and sometimes several times a day. He encourages me to write. I always send him drafts and still get back unfiltered opinions.
In short, I made a life-long friend when I stepped foot in that class.
I owe so much to Mickey.
I try to tell him, but I am not sure my words can ever express my gratitude.
My advice. If you ever meet an asshole who demands more from you than you think you’re capable of, listen. Reflect. Try to find the you that the asshole sees. You might get lucky, as I did.
Mickey changed my life and made me a better version of myself than I ever imagined.