Noah was in 4th grade when he transferred to Explorer Elementary School, part of the High Tech High Village in Point Loma CA where I had just started working as the 12th grade English teacher. The transition was tough for him -- new people, new approach to education, early mornings due to our 35 minute commute and early staff meetings. So I was concerned, but not entirely surprised, when I received a call during the middle of my class that Noah had run out of Explorer’s building and no one knew where he had gone. I quickly told my class that I needed to leave for a few minutes and then ran downstairs to our dean, Brian, to tell him what was going on. “Let’s go find him,” was his response as he ran out of the door with me to search for my 9 year old boy. We split up to cover more ground -- and about 10 minutes later I got a call from Brian saying that he had found Noah in the grocery store parking lot a block or so from the school. I was relieved and grateful for his help, but I didn’t know the half of it. A few years later Noah told me what happened in that parking lot and what a big impact it had on him: Brian saw Noah and Noah saw Brian -- but instead of running after him (as I would have), Brian stopped and just waited. After a few minutes, Noah slowly walked across the parking lot to Brian, who said to him, “I knew you would make the right choice.” Think about that for a minute. “I knew you would make the right choice.” Not a scolding or a lecture, but an affirmation. What a profoundly empowering statement. The seeds of confidence and thoughtfulness planted in Noah that day took root and continue to grow.
About a year later, after our morning staff meeting but before school had started, Noah tearfully came into my room holding out his thumb with a staple sticking out of it. After a few minutes of unsuccessfully trying to convince him to let me take it out, I was feeling frazzled and desperate because my students were minutes from walking in the door. My friend and colleague John saw my desperation and walked over to see if he could help. After he was filled in on the situation John walked into his classroom, grabbed a stapler, walked over to Noah, -- and then calmly stapled his own arm and slowly pull the staple out. “See? It doesn’t really hurt.” And then he did it again. And again. Noah’s tears immediately stopped -- replaced with shock and then laughter. John was eventually able to remove the staple in Noah’s finger and send him on his way to class with a smile on his face, a great story to tell and the seeds of courage and humor planted in his little psyche.
Both of these wonderful men mentored Noah throughout his time at HTH, not only nurturing his emotional growth, but turning him on to astronomy, camping, drone making/flying, philosophy, biology, and rock climbing. And in one instance, on a desert camping trip, giving Noah the wheel of the car before he even had his driver’s permit. There are many more stories to tell about their influence on Noah -- but they aren’t the only mentors Noah had. Mr Holmes turned him onto the maker movement, Ms Robinson and Ms Eggleston created a safe, loving, accepting space where he could be himself; David took Noah to robotics competitions, providing opportunities for him to speak in front of crowds and interact with professionals; Mr Aguirre challenged Noah to think critically about his own opinions and to value his education, Jorge and Nick both helped Noah to like math. The list goes on and on and on. I can point to about 40 people in our village who have helped to shape and nurture my son in these last 9 years to be the kind, thoughtful, funny, confident young man he is today. School for him was so much more than academics.
Today, as I move Noah into his dorm at Prescott College in Arizona, I feel confident that he has been prepared for this next adventure.
And I am eternally grateful to the village it took to raise him.
Hello! My name is Pam Reynolds Baker and I am a mom/wife /writer and lavender farmer located in Dundee, Oregon.