Ricco (even though he probably doesn't know it) is safely one of my favorite people on the planet. He is someone I can count on at all times. He is never in a bad mood, is always wiling to listen, gives me his time, and is always there to talk. He is an incredible teaching partner, and day after day, I feel very fortunate to have him in my life.
But, at first, Ricco kind of scared me.
You see, last year I was 1) a fourth-year teacher, 2) in my second international teaching placement, 3)paired up with an expert in the school, and 4) surrounded by expert teachers and members of the international NIS community.
This year, though, things shifted around, and I found myself the 1) apparent expert between the grades 1-3, 2) the only returning teacher in the lower elementary, and 3) the teaching partner to a very brand new and very green young Canadian. And with no time or patience for an elephant on my back (nor a Canadian, at that), I immediately grew wary of Ricco.
Looking back, I owe him the apology of the century, as, for as fresh as he is, his amazing-ness far overgoes and makes up for the experience I thought he lacked. Each day he comes in with fresh and new ideas that he is eager to share. He watches me teach and shares his ideas about the lesson, with new ways to take kids forward. He is willing to listen, to try new things, and to take criticism when his ideas, frankly, sometimes suck. As a teaching partner, he is the pepper to my salt. He allows me to lead (which I do best), relinquish control (which I do best), and be the expert (which I do best). In return he picks up slack wherever it is needed and is always on hand to give exactly that. We are a glorious pair of teachers together, and I couldn't be more glad to have him as my right-hand man.
Recently, Ricco has really been a great influence on my personal life as well, and has gone above-and-beyond in matters of the heart. He speaks like a boy (duh!), only more thoughtfully, and is fresh with ideas about relationships and how we are all inter-connected in this world. His grasp on the comings and goings of humans and our impact on each other, emotionally and physically, is unmatched, and his ability to listen and advise thoughtfully are always appreciated and never unnoticed. He is never judgmental, and in more recent instances, is attuned to when a hug or generous words of encouragement are needed.
But more than that, Ricco is just a smart, cool, and fun guy. Incredibly handsome and well-built, he is the athlete who will run you over if even if you're an expert and he's not. He'll pick up any girl in the bar effortlessly, but is never really that interested. He constantly thirsts for understanding and knowledge and can already almost speak Japanese better than me (which is a great accomplishment, although also isn't saying too much). He reads books voraciously, ponders what he has learned, then shares his knowledge just when you need it. And, the catalyst of our group, with never a regret in his body, he's a bit crazy, without many limits, which allows us for many really, really fun nights out.
Ricco, if you're reading this pal (which I know you're not!), you're one of my favorites.