Tom Bloch needed a break from the all-consuming nature of being a CEO.
Tom Bloch: The bottom line is that I was all-consumed by my previous job, which was CEO of H&R Block, a company that was founded by my father, Henry Bloch, and his brother Richard. And I enjoyed a 19-year career with the company, but it was about at the time that I achieved my ultimate goal, which was to succeed my dad as CEO, that I began to think that something was missing, and I had 2 young kids at that time and it was not uncommon for me to sit at the dinner table and my wife would kick me under the table and say, “Jason just asked you a question and you didn’t hear him.” So I was totally consumed by my job at H&R Block, so I finally decided that if I was going to truly be happy, I would need to pursue a different kind of personal fulfillment, one that was not financially related and one where the focus was not on me. And so my thoughts began to turn to urban education.
For several months, I debated back and forth. I think everybody I knew thought I had the world by the tail. I’m having a wonderful, lucrative position at a great company, wonderful people, and a company that was founded by my father. And so it was a very difficult decision to make, and having been there for 19 years and having never thought about any career outside of the tax preparation business for my entire life, it was agonizing. And I would often wake my wife at 2:00 in the morning, which she never appreciated, to talk about this, and finally, I made the decision to move on. And I thought about urban education for a couple of reasons. I thought then as I do today that urban education lies at the heart of our nation’s most urgent problem.
And I had two prior teaching experiences, neither of which was in urban education. But when I was in college, my French professor offered me the opportunity to teach French at the elementary school in Claremont, California, and he told me I wouldn’t be paid but I could receive course credit for it. And so I did that, and I really enjoyed the experience. Now, my students didn’t quite take me seriously. They saw me more as a 20-year-old college student than a real teacher, and I think that was particularly evident when they called me ‘Mr. Blockhead.’ But, and then about 30 years later, I taught taxes at H&R Block, and also a very satisfying experience, and none of my students then called me ‘Mr. Blockhead.’ But… so I thought teaching would be a wonderful pursuit.
Recorded on: October 13, 2008