The Teacher Becomes the Pupil
Posted 11/23/22

It feels as if my entire life I have been teaching.  I know it isn’t true as I also learn something new every day… take today for example. I found out that Robert DeNiro trained as a middleweight boxer for the Academy Award-winning film, Raging Bull.  He boxed more than 1000 rounds and Jake LaMotta, the boxer whom he portrayed, thought he would’ve made an exceptional pro contender.  But as much as I love to learn and continue to do so, teaching still dominates my daily repertoire.  With a continued robust crew at work, coupled by raising three young humans alongside of my best friend, Lisa, class seems to be in session almost indefinitely. 

However, it recently dawned on me that the three people in this world that I have been guiding so vehemently have, maybe not so suddenly, become educators in their own right.  As life continues without pause, much like waves on the beach, we can simply overlook the changes that occur all around us.  The slight shifts and the maturation of relationships take form in ways that are so easily missed that when they are noticed, they catch us off guard because of both their stealthy impact and subtlety.  In this particular case, my children aren’t as much children any more, but adults who have taken information that we have given them and processed it into their own terms.  They have taken the tools we have given them and used them in ways that even I couldn’t comprehend until I stepped back and saw it with my own eyes.  My kids have begun to teach me poignant life lessons, that even as I type, have me beaming with pride while choking back emotions long enough so that I might put out a valuable read for you.

For the sake of my watery eyes and your time, I will begin by sharing what my family has taught me.

Jordan Alberino, 26 – Patience and Persistence

My son, Jordan, has been one of my closest friends since graduating from teenage years into a respected businessman and pillar of our family.  He possesses a trait that I had to marry into as I simply don’t have much of it, and that is patience.  His mom possesses it in bushels, and she is slowly rubbing off on me, but she has certainly been the catalyst for this absolute gift that Jordan embraces.  I have watched my son grow into a man in the face of adversity at nearly every turn.  From being moved out of his hometown of Philly to the Midwest, to making an incredible leap of faith as he headed to the university of Oregon, he has been patient enough to understand that home is wherever you are.  He has exuded patience when it comes to friends who have come and gone and it carries over to those who have chosen ignorance over logic when they see a family with an abnormal makeup.

Selecting friends and significant others?  Patience.  Vetting career moves and making extreme life decisions?  Serious patience. Analyzing life’s landscapes and traversing difficult obstacles placed in his path?  You guessed it, patience.

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I can learn from everyone around me, and he is not devoid of that pool.  Although he has my persistence to succeed, be a good human, friend, son, brother and more… he can certainly continue to teach me the divine talent of taking a breath, stepping aside and being analytical while also using one’s heart to guide… all with patience.

Stella GiGi Alberino, 14 – Hope, Compassion

My family and I pride ourselves on 4 key thought processes, 4 indelible mantras to live by: Empathy, Kindness, Courage, and Trust.  As those span across so many wonderful corners of everyday living, they don’t touch it all and that is where my next lesson presents itself.  My youngest family member, and one of the kindest humans I have ever been around, preaches these virtues often and with conviction.  Stella GiGi, you must know, has a heart of gold and sees the best in everyone. 

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She has cured me of a lot (but in no way all!) of east coast cynicism, judgement, and the occasional spouts of anger that can swell in my soul.  She looks towards the loving side of situations and her feelings, sewn squarely on both sleeves, reminds me that there is more good than bad in this world.  Although she often has to correct my behavior in Sunday mass (I periodically bust out in what I call my “church voice” for songs), like so many people who don’t deserve her compassion, she forgives me just the same and for that, I love her even more.

Angelina Alberino, 19 – Perseverance and Introspection

I saved Angelina for last as I am beyond proud of this young woman and I don’t believe anyone has taught me more in a shorter period of time than she.  Her ability to learn from the past and take those lessons to propel her towards the future is staggeringly superb.  There isn’t a night when she arrives back home that we don’t unpack what we’ve experienced throughout the day… whether it be earth shattering or trivial.  Her depth is a joy to watch and to see how she has grown from her own personal experiences while learning to communicate at levels that most adults don’t operate on is simply beautiful.  She’s a throwback, from her clothes to her way of thinking, and having her in our home at this stage of her life is a daily reminder of how blessed we are as a family. She’s earning a PhD in adulthood and her lectures are as good as any at your alma mater.

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So I guess what I am saying is, don’t stop teaching but also open your heart to continue to learn.  Education comes from the most peculiar places and when you least expect it, you just might find that you’ll have a masterclass right under your nose.