It’s been over a week since Ted Sizer past away. His passing wasn’t a surprise- he’d been sick for quite awhile- but I was surprised by the level of my own response. That’s why it’s taken me a week to acknowledge it, to tell you the truth. Ted was my first educational mentor, way back in 1988 when my friend Meredith and I read Horace’s Compromise. We were doing a senior year independent study on education reform, though we didn’t really know what an independent study was- other than a good excuse to skip out for lunch under the guise of “going to the library.” I like to imagine that Ted would have been entertained by the irony in that. There have been a number of wonderful eulogies already written- here, and here, and my favorite here. I don’t need to rehash all of his accomplishments-but I do want to tell you a story.
In the winter for 2003 (or maybe 2004? I’m not sure), just a couple of years after I started working here at ANE, I was charged with contacting Ted. (We were hoping that he would come and speak at our 40th anniversary celebration.) It was one of those February days where the snow just falls and falls and falls, but the wind doesn’t really blow that hard- a quintessential New England winter day. In the closing of my e-mail, I’d admonished he and Nancy to “stay warm.” His response was that they’d done just the opposite- they’d just come in from tobogganing with their grandchildren, he said, and their cheeks were all rosy with the cold.
I love the picture that comes to mind when I imagine that scene. He and Nancy, crammed onto a sled together as it careened downhill, powder flying and shrieks of laughter filling the air, with the grandkids cheering them on. I imagine Ted in one of those funny, surprisingly warm, hats that have ear flaps and strings that hang down (though i have no idea if he actually favored them). In my mind’s eye, I see him grinning and brushing snow off his coat, dragging the toboggan back up the hill for another run.
That’s how I remember Ted. My experiences with him convinced me of two things: he was one of the great educational minds of our generation- and he knew how to have a good time. Rest well, Ted. We’ll miss you.