[For #TBT this week, we are headed way back into the archives to something I wrote in October 2011. The topic of what it takes to be a great teacher in a fine independent school remains an important subject for me, particularly as we head into the hiring season. While we will not have many spaces to fill at St. George’s Independent School, it is imperative that we get it right in order that we fill our school with the sort of teachers who allow the school to best serve its students and its mission. So…there are two things I have included here: first, the blog post from 2011 entitled, “The Role Models We Need for our Students”, and second, the text of a document I wrote just over a year ago to make our expectations clear to both veteran teachers at SGIS and to teachers who may be interested in teaching at our school. It is titled, “The Right School for Teachers Who…”]
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–at least that is how it looked to my sixteen year old self.
My admiration expressed itself every time I parodied the way they talked or the way they rolled their eyes at the 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 may lead to change in their practice; 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.
We will be the right school for teachers who…
- Put the needs of each student dead center, every day, every class, every interaction.
- Want to challenge their own practice whenever there is an opportunity to serve students better.
- Model the characteristics of great collaborators by participating in departments, grade levels, and divisions.
- Are ready to be the reason that a student and family should choose our school.
- Are deeply aligned with school’s mission and vision and are earnestly committed to moving it forward.
- Reach out not only to the students who make it easy on them, but also to all those who don’t.
- Pitch in when they can, however they can.
- Strive to be the sort of people we describe in the Portrait of a Graduate.