Community AND content.
Humility AND boldness.
Curriculum AND instruction.
Hard work AND deep rest.
The most impactful teachers in the world are masters of embracing paradox. They’ve got an eye for what Jim Collins calls “the genius of the AND.” Where do they acquire this sense for nuance? In their dogged pursuit of first principle questions:
- What are schools for?
- What’s my job for?
- In my role, what’s the work that matters most? Where are the wise interventions? What are children like, and how do they learn?
- How do I maximize the impact of my role without sacrificing a good and balanced life?
These questions — let’s call them and their ilk the Big Ones — lead a person ever deeper into meaningful and impactful work. They immunize against viral edu-fads. They take the rose-tinted filter off a world (and a profession) gone mad with distraction. They root us in the realities of our rosters and draw us to the anchors of good research.
It’s been nearly a year since schools first closed for COVID-19. In the year to come, many will propose and bring changes to educational contexts. This will happen all around the world. The majority of these people will believe that their championed changes are good. Good intentions will abound as they always do in education.
But the ones who make the differences they are after — who put smart dents into the problems that have long plagued us — will be those who’ve spent time apprenticed to the first principles of an education. They’ll be the folks who know…
- How to lead oneself
- How to cultivate human motivation in all kinds of contexts
- How to facilitate actual learning — for individuals, for teams, for systems
- How to lead and influence others (because the system won’t be changed by individuals alone)
The strongest and most equitable institutions that emerge from the year to come will be those most adept at building these capacities in all of their people as efficiently as possible.
Dawn Fargo says
Thank you for this, Dave. I have been really struggling to figure out what my role is in education right now. I feel like I am at a crossroads between imparting content for a career and building life skills for survival. I have had to step away from the content because the students have more pressing issues. Whether it is not engaging when they are remote, or not engaging while they are in person; they seem to have lost the ability to drive their own learning. I, as a teacher, have found myself stuck in this cycle as well. I’m tired of jumping onto the newest fad that the district thinks will solve all of our problems. I have long since given up my privacy simply to get students to connect with me wherever and however they are most comfortable. I am struggling with the first question: What are schools for? I am not sure that I have found any answers–only more questions. This article was spot on!!
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