Teachers and Students…A Parent’s Perspective
by Ed Mendieta
Good afternoon everyone!
My name is Ed Mendieta, I’m Isaiah’s Dad. Joined by my wife Veronica, Isaiah’s mom Nancy, and his step dad Jose I am honored to have been invited by Midland to deliver this presentation! Christopher provided some ideas, which translated into the following themes:
Theme 1 That it is from the heart
Theme 2 Something about parenting
Theme 3 to keep in mind that these kids are finishing 4-years of accomplishing something and that they are now going out into the world
When I think of teachers and students, I think of role models: all of us have one. A person who was instrumental in not just teaching us, but helping us become better people. My role model was Sensei. The word Sensei is Japanese for teacher.
He was my karate teacher.
You see, my dad was gone most of my childhood because he worked in the merchant marine and my mom had multiple sclerosis. We also had a tough neighborhood. So, it seemed like a good idea for my parents to put my brother, sister and I into karate. And Sensei just happened to have his dojo or school in our neighborhood. I’m certain that everyone here knows who my Sensei is.
Ever seen the movie Karate Kid? You know, Mr. Miyagi, the good guy, who used to say “wax on, wax off”, “Daniel-san.” Sensei played Mr. Miyagi’s stunt double. That’s right, it wasn’t Mr. Miyagi, it was my Sensei kicking but on the bad guys, Cobra Kai. Mr. Miyagi’s character was based on my Sensei, Fumio Demura as told in the documentary appropriately called “The Real Miyagi” that came out in 2015. The documentary describes Fumio Demura as one of the fiercest, most accomplished, and respected martial artists in the world. It also talks about the bond that was created between Pat Morita who played Mr. Miyagi and Fumio Demura throughout the filming of the Karate Kid movies. The best part of this documentary is when they interviewed Fumio Demura about why he didn’t get married or have any kids. His response “In marriage I am white belt.” Furthermore he said “I shouldn’t have thought that way, that marriage would have kept me from focusing on martial arts… but I have thousands of kids now, they are my investment, that’s why I teach them the way I do…THAT’S WHY I TEACH THEM THE WAY I DO.”
No wonder he made his students feel so special! He is one of those people who teaches things that one continues to discover as they progress through life, you know…one of those “OK, now I know what he was trying to teach me!” It wasn’t just about the karate and fighting. It was about his dojo-kun. The dojo-kun was our school’s mission statement… and it was stated by all the students at the end of each class. The dojo-kun promoted things like:
having a sense of justice,
and being respectful
We sent our boys Isaiah and his brother Noah to take karate with Sensei. But, after a couple of years Isaiah was getting bored of karate and was ready to move on to soccer. Isaiah, do you remember about 10 years ago when we were at Sensei’s school and you didn’t want to go back into his class? You know, like a little meltdown? And then what happened? When you have one of the world’s most accomplished martial artists and head of over 50 dojos, located in over 25 countries across the world who walks away from his class and asks me “Where is Isaiah?” I pointed to Isaiah who was sitting on the steps at the entrance of the building with his head in his hands not wanting to have any part of it. So Sensei tells his class to go on without him, walks outside, and calmly sits down on the steps with Isaiah. After some quiet discussion and without incident, Isaiah walked back with Sensei into the classroom and…re-engaged.
Now let’s relate this type of exchange between teacher and student, back to the Teachers of Midland. Doesn’t this sound familiar?Teachers who know through life’s experience how important is it for students to “get” the lesson, and more importantly how to get the student to figure it out on their own. I believe that the teachers here at Midland are very much like Sensei, that your students are your investment and, in many ways, like your extended family. Look at how many generations of the children of teachers who have been raised by the community of Midland!
Lynda, I’m sure it just seemed like yesterday that Emily was running around this place as a little girl. And today it’s Freya’s turn to be taken care of by the likes of Isaiah and Kai. Now that brings a smile to my face!
So back to Sensei… He taught us Karate to defend ourselves, but it was the dojo-kun that gave us confidence to achieve our goals.
That’s why as an adult, I realize Sensei was not just a teacher but a role model.
So Seniors, Who is your Sensei?
And Teachers, who was your role model?
It’s my belief that Midland is a community that cultivates both.
So back to my 2nd presentation theme: parenting. Now I get the opportunity to put my myself on the spot, instead of Isaiah. Ed, do you remember when your son Isaiah was a Freshman and you were curled up in the corner of your room wondering why he didn’t call on Tuesday night like he was supposed to? Remember when you…AKA Isaiah’s dad, was trying to contact everyone on campus after 9pm that Tuesday night, including leaving messages on the head of school’s voicemail to locate your son…
Who may have very well have been LOST on Grass Mountain,
in a snow drift,
fallen in a crevasse,
feeding on mushrooms,
with his foot caught under a rock,
and contemplating amputation in order to make it back to the safety of his dusty bed at Midland school!
Yes, I remember those days…and I’m sure Isaiah’s teachers remember those days as well. Having to handle parents like me. Our fears…exposed. Our love…exposed.
I also remember when Isaiah got a concussion on the soccer field during his Sophomore year and was taken to a local hospital in an ambulance. That was scary! To NOT be there with Isaiah at Midland. But after receiving continuous updates and reassurances from Janet, Derek, Jose Juan and others at Midland, we made it through. And according to Isaiah, it was not only Midland staff, but his classmates who stepped in to help him through his period of recovery.
OK back to the last theme of my presentation: that these fine young graduates are going out into the world.
Well, you are high school seniors…many of whom may be going to college next year. Ever thought about the type of students you may come across during your first year of college? Well I do! I come across them each year for an intro to college class that I teach to incoming Freshman students. These are the students that you will be going to school with, many who have come from non-boarding schools. Most may never have lived more than 1 day away from their parents.
I am amazed at how little such Freshmen know about the simple, but important things that you already have learned here at Midland, The things that will contribute to being successful. I am going to make the case that it these things, the Midland intangibles ARE worth celebrating!
For starters, you have lived your education here at Midland…away from your parents. You have been surrounded with a 24/7 educational community where you have learned resourcefulness, that benefits actually come to those that put in the work, that you know how food gets to the table and where it goes when it leaves the table. And IF you take one of those Intro to college classes this summer, I hope that you can celebrate the fact that you learned more than just knowing how to study and pass classes here at Midland, that you know that what the concept of laps, consequences, and responsibility are to each other, that you know something about how to balance work, play, school, and yes…SLEEP! That a community nudged and reminded you relentlessly to realize your potential, and lastly that you are self-reliant.
So, in closing I want to say congratulations to the class of 2019!
You have been given, hands-down, the most interesting problems, cleverly disguised as impossible situations. And you learned that you NEEDED each other to solve one Midland problem after another and made some VERY close friends along the way; these are the memories that will last a lifetime.
I also want to acknowledge the teachers and staff for being there to help you live your education. From the bottom of my heart: THANKS FOR EVERYTHING!
Lastly and most appropriately I have a special message for my son, my mijo Isaiah. You know, your great, great grandfather Inez Mendieta was from San Sabastian, Spain. Our last name Mendieta, means, Of the Mountain.…as translated from the Basque language of “Euskara” I do believe your origins have EVERYTHING to do with who you are and that it is no accident that YOU made this education happen. And that YOU chose to live in the presence of mountains for the past 4 years. Thank you mijo, for making the most of this environment. AND making your family and friends very, very proud!
Thank you everyone!
– Ed Mendieta, parent of Isaiah ’19