Today I was grinning irrepressibly.

Last week I received an email from the current faculty adviser to the disciplinary committee — what we call the Student-Faculty Judiciary Committee. It read:

Dear Mr Shah,

You have been referred to the Student Faculty Judiciary Committee for Violation of Dress Code. Your hearing will take place on Tuesday, 4 December, during F band, in the Faculty Lounge. (This is the space above the cafeteria.) If possible, your superhero will join you in the hearing as support. Please arrive on time, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions about your appearance before the committee. Should you be ill on the day of your hearing or need to be absent for any reason, you must contact me via email. Otherwise, the committee may deliberate and reach a disciplinary response in your absence.

For those of you who need some background, I served on the committee for four years… two years as a faculty representative (going to the hearings, giving my thoughts, voting) followed by two years as the faculty adviser (leading the committee). It was hard work. Four years of early morning meetings, dealing with challenging student issues (and sometimes challenging students). We disagreed. We argued. And in the process, in these early mornings, I saw some of the best things I could have possibly hoped to have seen as a teacher. I saw students who came before the committee reflect. I saw students serving on the committee grow in their thinking about responsibility and consequences. I saw committee members show empathy while simultaneously keeping the big picture in mind. I saw students disagree with students, and teachers disagree with students, and students disagree with teachers, and teachers disagree with teachers… and come out the better for it. And I saw, year after year, a committee of students and faculty who were dealing with confidential and difficult and rarely good things band together to form a tight group with a real sense of purpose. To me, the committee truly has been a concrete instantiation of the best kind of work a school can do, and we did it well. [1]

That’s what the committee is all about.

I walk to the faculty lounge. I look up the stairs, and I see a student waving. As I walk up the stairs, I see a ton of people all there and they all start clapping. It was a thank you pizza party in my honor. I got this grin, and the whole time I walked up those stairs, I thought: this is a highlight of my teaching career thus far. There were the current students on the committee, and the current faculty members on the committee, all the old students who had previously been on the committee (who were still at the school), all the old faculty members who had been on the committee, some of the deans, the Head of the Upper School, and even the Head of School. There were many 20 people there, clapping. It was overwhelming. I shook some hands, and I gave a little speech, and we all broke bread together.

I will admit to experiencing symphony of emotions.

One was sadness. Of course I’m happy that I get to sleep in more often and it’s important that there is new leadership and new voices, but seeing everyone made me miss the camaraderie that we had. I also felt guilty. Why hadn’t I created a thank you celebration for the former faculty adviser when I took over the SFJC? She did more in her years to bring the committee to it’s modern form than anyone — she has been the biggest inspiration and mentor I’ve had as a teacher. I also felt undeserving, because so many people do so many great things at our school that go unrecognized. But mostly those feelings were all undertones, and the main feeling in my symphony was elation. And I kept thinking stay in the present, enjoy this, soak it up, because it won’t happen again soon.

So I stayed in the present. I enjoyed every moment. I continued to grin. And I was just so happy.

I’ll end with one thing that someone who had been on the committee for years said to me, a precocious student who loves history. He said that he was thinking that my leadership was analogous to Earl Warren’s leadership in the Supreme Court. Those who know my obsession with the Supreme Court would know why I loved that analogy, and those who know the Warren Court would know why that is such a compliment.

[1] I should also say one of my most trusted colleagues brought me onto the committee, and basically made the committee what it was. My primary goal while serving on the committee was to not let her good work disappear.



  1. Congrats, Sam! Your blogs about the disciplinary committee have undoubtedly been only a small part of the work you’ve done and time invested. It was good an appropriate that they celebrated your important work. We need a lot more of this in schools.

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