Photo by Adan Quan
In the 500 hallway, it is hard to miss the various track and field or cross country awards. From the corner of the hallway, where a trophy case stands packed with awards dating back to 1980, to the display case outside of room 507 and the all-state certificates under various state championships it is evident that Patrick Murray values the success of his athletes.
Whether academically or athletically , Murray wants to see his students succeed. This started when he got a job at ELHS in 1990, shortly after receiving a master’s degree in special education. And after 32 years of teaching, Murray is now retiring from ELPS, in order to spend more time with his family and because he is having a good year.
“The biggest thing was wanting to make sure I left while I was still enjoying what I was doing,” Murray said. “A couple of times though, things come up where I’ve got to come back on Sunday to get ready for the week. So I’ve got to leave things I could do with my grandkids that I don’t really want to leave.”
When he first started searching for jobs, Murray wasn’t looking for an English teaching job at ELHS. Instead, he had been seeking a job at Okemos public schools for special education, where he was informed of a special education job at ELHS, which he accepted.
Additionally, Murray became one of the coaches for Boys Track and Field and Cross Country. He says one of his favorite things about the sport and team is seeing his athletes succeed, and when they realize a difficult workout is helping them in the long run—which he also sees as what he enjoys about teaching. Murray is always proud when his athletes come back to see him and they mention remembering what they did at practice.
“And I had students come back and tell me all those things you taught us in class, I really understand them now. That’s really rewarding,” Murray said.
No matter what decision he makes, Murray feels that it is always for the benefit of his students or athletes. This doesn’t mean the decisions he makes are easy, though. Finding a balance is a skill that Murray has learnt throughout the years.
“We as teachers, we make just thousands of those decisions every day. What’s really the best thing to do for each student on each thing that comes up,” Murray said. “I hope that they at least realize that I was always trying to do what I thought was best for them [in that situation]. I really worked hard at never doing something just because it was easy for me.”
As a veteran teacher, Murray recognizes that it isn’t easy for students to always do amazing in his special education work, he was suffering from burnout from the amount of paperwork. When he had the opportunity to switch into a more involved role, focused on one subject—English—he took it.
“I tell my students and athletes the same thing. Effort is something you can learn and it really scares me to see students who can just waltz through. If you can get in the habit of doing your best at everything you do, it’s going to stay with you for the rest of your life, and it’s going to be rewarding,” Murray said.
But Murray’s definition of success isn’t rooted in perfection. For him, success means doing the best the student or athlete can do. And he pushes for his students and athletes to always do the best they can in the moment.
“I tell my students and athletes, success is doing your best in this situation you’re in. It’s not the outcome. It’s the process. Have you done your best? And I tell them hey, can you get up tomorrow and look yourself in the mirror and say ‘hey, I did the best I could yesterday?’ That’s what you want to look at. Not what was my grade, not what was my time or distance. ‘Did I do my best?’”
As he moves forward, Murray hopes to continue to coach at East Lansing once he retires, since the connections he has made are something he values.
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