January 16, 2010

Great Education

(I am not back.) My wife recently asked my why I stopped writing. My honest response to her was that I no longer felt compelled to convince myself to continue teaching. I am not sure how much that comes across in what I wrote, but nearly all of the 100 essays were motivated by my desire to persuade myself that I wanted to stay in education. I no longer feel like I want to leave the classroom for some other career. I am a teacher and a very good one. I love working with students and know that I make a difference to them.

Yesterday one of my closest friends and colleagues shared with me that he is planning on transferring to the new high school in our school district next school year. Now, this may be the right move for him, but it is not for me. Last year one of our buddies transferred over and I’m still not over the loss. So my motivation for trying to convince him to stay is selfish, I admit that. But I think I can make a convincing argument for him to stay that is not solely based on my losing both of my lunch partners.

Great education occurs at great institutions when great educators instruct with greatness. Yes, the most important aspect of education is the relationship of the teacher with his or her students. And, yes, that can take place anywhere, at any school, at any time. However, when a group of great educators converge on a single campus to exercise their greatness with a great group of students, magic happens. Not smoke and mirrors magic, but real magic: learning. This learning is contagious. It’s pours out of the classrooms and into the halls where it sticks to the students and follows them home.

Now, it’s exciting to think about the challenge of a new institution. But most new institutions take a very long time to achieve the greatness of established institutions. To be sure, some new institutions become great more quickly than others, and some never achieve the status of greatness. Of course there is an allure to the challenge of being on the very first “all-star” team of teachers and breaking ground with a brand new population of students that sets all of the records and creates the standards for generations to come. And sometimes anywhere is better than where you are.

This is a very tough year for our campus. In fact, the last six years have not been so great. We faced many challenges including the dynamic changing of our population of students whose needs seem greater than ever. Thankfully, we belong to a staff of a school that has been great for over 100 years. As teachers we are standing on the shoulders of the giant educators that preceded us at our place. It is a privilege and an honor to be including in their ranks. It is now our time to uphold and advance their educational excellence. Convincing?