I have always looked and continue to look for role models. By the time I reached my senior year in an all-boys school, the teachers that seemed to have found a way to create their own space within and somehow separate from the school itself fascinated me most. Nothing seemed to surprise them; they had seen it all. I was someone who spent much of high school surprised and appalled, so they represented an attractive contrast. By placing themselves apart, they placed themselves above the rest of the school community. My admiration expressed itself every time I parodied the way they talked or the way they rolled their eyes at disappointing behavior of their charges.
Perceptions are funny things though, and I have come to see this kind of teacher quite differently. I now believe that their approach to our profession will only leave them tilting at windmills. If this teacher-as-silo approach was ever a good teaching strategy, those days are gone.
These days I admire a different kind of teacher most. Great teachers have the ability to reveal to students that we all should be in the process of becoming—becoming thinkers, writers, mathematicians, scientists, speakers, listeners, challengers and leaders. The self-isolating teacher is by this definition handicapping him or herself because he or she becomes merely an artifact of learning. Students deserve more than that.
Great teachers must be willing to embrace the process that leads to change; they must ask the hard questions; and they must take the steps necessary to ensure that the change is in fact progress. Our students are fortunate to go to a school where there are many such teachers, and as we take steps toward creating more and more dynamic learning experiences for our students, we are going to need every one of them.