the blog of Carol Burris

The wonderful Tom Sobol

Tom Sobol is an extraordinary man. He was superintendent of Scarsdale Public Schools, a New York Commissioner of Education, and a wonderful professor of leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University.
I was lucky enough to be one of his students.
Tom is very ill. His loving wife, Harriet, spoke for him at the 2nd Annual Tom Sobol lecture which featured education scholar, Yong Zhao.

Here are Harriet’s remarks about her husband–a true friend of public schools.

Please no applause.. I am only a messenger. I bring greetings from Tom Sobol. His blue eyes still sparkle. His mind remembers what I’ve forgotten. He has no pain. His son says it’s not so bad. “Someone ‘s always taking care of his father. He has no pain. He doesn’t have to work. Move over Dad.”
As wonderful as it would be for him to be here, he would be thinking about what he could give to you, what he could say to you that would mean something. So I will show him the video and he can enjoy that.
He is grateful that you remember him with the gift of Dr. Yong Zhao’s wise words and his former students Dr. Carol Burris and Dr. Tom Rogers responses.
I remember last year. Tom’s last work My Life in School was not out yet. It is a success. It is still for sale and makes a great Christmas gift. We had a wonderful book party for him About a hundred people, children running around, old friends saying hello, people from all ends of Tom’s career. We wondered would people want to see Tom or would they be nervous? Before we could do anything, a line formed at the door of his room. The line grew and grew. By the time everyone greeted him, his eyes were closed. He wasn’t sleeping but he was exhausted. A few people wept. The last time they saw him, was in a wheelchair but he looked strong. I knew what they wanted. They wanted him back to fight what is happening , help the people who were at the hearing in Portchester yesterday. I used to feel that way but I don’t anymore. Tom’s work is over. For him, it’s time for his grandchildren, the Red Sox, reading fiction on his i pad, and weeping with joy and astonishment while he listens to Rigoletto.
A few months ago I asked if he was happy with what he accomplished. He answered, “Fifty per cent.” He said that therewere things he would have done differently if he had them to do again. He would have stayed longer in Albany. He would have made sure the Compact was established. That was the big one.
But Tom’s teaching was his greatest contribution. People from the Scarsdale School Boards said he taught him. Some Regents said he taught them. But the greatest gift, the gift from the heart he gave, the Nel Noddings kind of gift, the gift of caring, he gave to you, his students.
I think that’s why you honor him.
Tom is at peace. No one lives forever as much as we’d like that to be so. No one teaches forever. Eventually we all stop. His work is over. Many of you are beginning. Some are at your peak.
The message I bring to those of you who are here… those who are elsewhere…it is you who are his greatest work and it is for you to go out and teach others what he taught you. `
Thank you.

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