Opinion: ‘A Little of This, a Little of That’

by | Oct 2, 2022

In 2003, I earned my first department head position. I was incredibly excited about this leadership opportunity. And, if I’m being honest, I was way too impressed with my own title. 

On one of my first days in the building, I rode the elevator from the basement to my office on the fourth floor. On the first floor, it stopped, and an older gentleman got on. I introduced myself, was quick to share my title, and in response, he shared his name. But he didn’t tell me what he did. So, of course, I asked. “A little of this, a little of that,” he said. 

When pressed, he told me he was a teacher and mentioned how much he loved it. One of the reasons he loved it so much was that he had yet to figure it all out. Each day was different, he told me, and he looked forward to finding new ways to reach his students. “If I ever wake up and feel like I’ve figured it all out, I’m going to retire.” To this day, I still remember this moment and how passionately Frank Raispis looked at me when he told me that. 

Mr. Frank Raispis was a legend at Saint Ignatius College Prep. He attended Ignatius as a student in 1941 and, after college, returned to his high school alma mater. When he humbly told me that he did “a little of this, a little of that,” he was, of course, being humble. Mr. Raispis taught Latin, Greek, and History. He also served as a college counselor, language department chair, assistant principal, and principal. Perhaps most memorably, though, was how he would end pep rallies in the gymnasium by leading the entire school in song. 

A little of this, a little of that. 

All this makes me think about the power of the word “yet,” and how none of us have reached the end of our journey of learning. Yes, there are milestones and touch points along the way, and still, none of us have it all figured out. I know I thought I did, in that elevator in 2003, and in the kindest and most compassionate way, Frank Raispis taught me that I was not quite there yet. 

I know as a student, I looked up to my teachers. I thought they had it all figured out. After all, there they were at the front of my classrooms, leading my learning. Now, I know better. 

This power of yet is something that we all need, some more explicitly than others. The metacognition that comes with it is a gift to our students. The notion that the path to success is a straight line, runs contrary to everything that we know. Most success comes from hard work, mistakes, dead ends, speed bumps, and moments in which we need to pause. 

As we strive for academic excellence in East Greenwich Public Schools, this must be a part of our message. We are all works in progress. None of us are finished learning. Consider this tweet from Andy Perrin, Social Studies Teacher at our high school: 

It’s not about titles, roles, or positions. It’s not about what we do, it’s about how we do it. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. If we are to achieve the vision of a graduate from our high school, one who is knowledgeable, connected, reflective, and skilled, we must admit all those values are limitless. 

A little of this, a little of that. 

Thank you, Mr. Raispis, for the life lesson. 

Brian G. Ricca, EdD, is the superintendent of East Greenwich Public Schools.

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