Sources of Joy: Moving forward with On My Teacher’s Shoulders


After more than a dozen years, we’re moving it forward to completion.


“It” in this case is On My Teacher’s Shoulders, the book I’ve written about learning from former fourth grade teacher, mentor and friend Paul Tamburello and that we’ll publish online by the end of September.


I first became aware of Paul in the early 70s, when I was one of the Lost Boys in a Pierce School production of Peter Pan and he was Captain Hook.


I decided I wanted him for my teacher.


My mother advocated for me and that happened.


The book tells the story of the year in his classroom learning about Japanese families and experimenting with how many sinkers we could fit in a clay boat we had fashioned.


It talks about the visits I made to the classroom in the years afterward and how Mr. Tamburello would stop the class and introduce me as if being an alumnus of 4T was a treasured club.


To me it was.


The book tells about how I returned to his classroom a dozen years later after my parents had been in a near-fatal auto accident on a snowy New Hampshire road to learn how to teach.


It describes the two years in which I served as an apprentice  teacher in his classroom being schooled in the mechanics of education and learning to believe that my actions had an impact.



It tells about how Paul taught me for a third time after learning in the early 90s that he had Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA, a non-fatal variation of Lou Gehrig’s disease.


Rather than wallow in self-pity, he turned the experience into an annual bike ride from Plymouth to Provincetown that eventually raised more than $250,000 and saw him take along “Honorary Riders,” the names of other people affected by ALS that he read at a ceremony the day after he completed the ride.


In short, the work is a tracing of the impact Paul has had over the course and direction of my life during the past nearly 40 years.


The story will be online and come in various forms.


There’ll be writing, of course.


But there will also be pictures and video and audio commentaries.


As I mentioned above, we’ve been talking about this project for a long, long time.


I still remember having Paul over to my apartment on Brighton’s Strathmore Road for a stir fry dinner and pitching the idea of the project to him.


Within the next month, we’ll work with web designer Russell Weller to move it to completion.


The title comes from an expression I first heard from Paul  in 1990, when he was honored with the Ernest R.  Caverly Award, one of the Brookline Public School system’s highest honor.


In the speech he gave, Paul quoted from Confucious, who said that a teacher is someone on whose shoulders one stands to see how far you can see.


I’ve been fortunate to step on Paul’s shoulders so many times that at this point I’ve lost track.


The book will tell that story.

It will be ready soon.


























4 responses to “Sources of Joy: Moving forward with On My Teacher’s Shoulders

  1. Ralph Lowenstein

    Sounds really exciting and inspiring, We’re anxious to read the book.

    Fran & Ralph

  2. Truth be told, we’ve taken turns standing on each other’s shoulders since you began two years of co- teaching with me in 1987. When people ask, “Are you still in touch with any of your students?”, I tell this story with glee – from Captain Hook, to your “apprenticeship ( you’re the only student to have a post graduate degree in 4T!), to our ongoing weekly conversations about work and life. This is gonna be fun. What a gift…

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