By Bella Watts, Staff Writer
As the Payton community grapples with unforeseeable circumstances that, with quiet frustration, have become a new normal, another saddening change is on the horizon as two of our beloved administrators will leave come next fall. Though unfortunately we do not all have the opportunity to thank them in the building, the Paw Print has the opportunity to zoom with Mr. Adamji to reflect on his years at 1034 North Wells and hear his aspirations for the future of our community.
What prompted the transition of positions? What will your new job entail?
“Great question. I’ve been at Payton for 13 wonderful years (five years as an English teacher and eight as AP), and I’ve absolutely loved my time here — specifically having had the opportunity to work with such amazing students and colleagues. That said, I’ve recently begun to miss working more directly with the high school English classroom — I’ve been very fortunate to remain connected to the classroom through teaching creative writing at Payton, but I’ve started really wanting more of it! My new job (English department chair at Glenbrook South High School) will still allow me to lead in a significant capacity but also return to thinking more deeply and broadly about high school English curriculum and instruction. Glenbrook South is a really big school (3200 students with over 40 English department faculty), so my new job is kind of like being the principal of an English department — I’ll also get to teach a class every year which will be great. I will, of course, deeply miss Payton, but I am also very very excited about my next professional chapter.”
If you could describe your time at Payton in a word or phrase, what would it be and why?
“Another great question! This may seem kind of obvious, but I truly think “transformative” would be the most accurate word. I’ll give away my age here, but I started teaching at Payton when I was 28 and had no kids. After 13 years, my eldest just turned 10, and my wife and I have three of them! What I guess I’m getting at here is that my tenure at Payton has accompanied me through some really big personal and professional milestones. I’ve grown so much both personally and professionally and this place is, without question, one of the primary reasons why.”
What do you think the new administration will need to know? What are the objectives and missions they need to carry over into the incoming years?
“One of the things I am most proud about my work at Payton is how far we’ve come in shifting our approach to reaching our most marginalized groups of students. While there is still a long way to go in this work, I’m so proud of how much our community has evolved its thinking in this regard. Without a doubt, the focus of the new admin’s work will be to continue providing exciting and progressive learning experiences for the student body at-large, but to also remain steadfast on continuing to evolve the equity work we have built over the past decade. I am so excited to see what new and exciting ideas they bring to the community!”
As you depart from Payton during these unprecedented times, what is the most important lesson you have learned from the position or from the students?
“Naturally, given the current circumstances, one of the most important things I’ve learned from both students and my work is that despite our society’s approach in thinking that we can control every outcome, we simply can’t. And it’s really, really important that we are able to adapt to life’s (and work’s) unpredictability. I think this is especially significant in the work as a leader of any human organization where there are so many factors, competing interests, and variables that impact everything that comes your way.”
Is there anything else you would like that say to the students?
“That they are extraordinary! And that despite the ‘Harvard Law School Syndrome’ that many students may experience in feeling like a minnow in the Atlantic when they arrive at Payton, they should never doubt their capabilities or potential for exceptional contribution to their local and global communities. Really and truly. And, of course, to never hesitate to reach out to Payton adults when they need support — the student body is so lucky to have the range of supportive and caring adults on campus.”
What will you miss the most about Payton?
“So many many things, but I think, very precisely, I’ll miss walking into the first floor atrium every morning. I just love the openness of the space.”
Like Mr. Adamj, our careers have shifted too, from in school to online school, giving us an opportunity to muse over once the mundane, anticlimactic occurrences of the everyday that now seem magical, regardless of how many people pushed you into the door on the Red Line. As students yearn to have an impossibly smooth transition into the next phase of their education.
“This time makes me realize how special Payton is, I miss it every day,” Lily Gies ‘22.
Though the next year lies ahead with daunting uncertainty with new settings for each of us to explore, in the spirit of Adamji, the strength and flexibility of the Payton community will allow us to get through, and hopefully, find our way back to 1034 North Wells.