As some readers may know, I am in the process of seeking new employment for 2012 and beyond. I am deeply devoted to the community of St. Gregory College Prep, and fiercely proud of what we do there. It is hard to leave, but at the same time, I am excited about the next great opportunity to serve a school and advance 21st century learning for our students.
I am not narrow-minded in my career thinking. Many different types of positions hold interest for me, they only need be reasonably well aligned with my passion and philosophy: advancing learning for students, especially but not exclusively secondary students, which is active and engaging, meaningful, rigorous, preparatory for our fast-changing world, digitally empowered, networked, and globally-minded.
I welcome readers to suggest to me, or suggest me to, interesting opportunities which you think might suit my interests and goals. (On my bio page, readers can find more about me, including a current c.v.)
Among the requirements for most positions is that candidates provide a statement of educational philosophy, and I have recently updated a statement I originally prepared more than a decade ago. I’m sharing it here, and would appreciate any feedback and suggestions for improvement readers might be willing and able to provide. You can use the comment box, and you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
Statement of Educational Philosophy
Janus-faced we must be as educators. Looking backwards, we preserve and perpetuate the best thoughts of human civilization and the best of our institution’s traditions; looking forward, we confront our fast-changing times, draw upon contemporary tools, and prepare our students for success in careers which don’t yet exist.
Independent schools have a long and great legacy, and it is the work of all of us who love them and care for them to both carry forward that tradition while also continuing to innovate to meet the educational demands of the new century. Art Powell, in his book Lessons from Privilege: the American Prep School Tradition, writes that the independent school tradition has long accomplished excellence with a simple formula, which will likely serve students well for centuries: “A demanding curriculum designed for all [combined] with personal attention within small scale environments.”
At the same time, schools which are not “of the future” will not be, as NAIS President Pat Bassett says, schools “in the future.” In the new NAIS Guide to Becoming a School of the Future, to which I was pleased to be a contributor, the vision is compelling: our students will be best engaged, best enriched, and best prepared if we as their educators are learners ourselves and and committed to instilling the critical skills today’s world demands and when students are academically challenged, co-creators of their own learning, digitally empowered, and engaged actively in project-based learning that connects to them to their communities and their passions.
Toward these ends, we as educators and educational institution leaders and stewards have many responsibilities.
To fulfill a unique mission. We must take care that our schools heed the call to ‘know thyself.’ We must always seek to know what it is that our particular school has set out to achieve; we must examine whether we are doing so, and we must chart a forward course to fulfill that mission.
To educate in the fashion of the ‘golden mean.’ As educational philosopher Peter Elbow wrote, we must Embrace Contraries by simultaneously teaching the subject and teaching the student: we must hold the highest standards of subject mastery while also striving for the highest quality of student support and encouragement. At our best schools, we find educational excellence in the place where academic standards are as unwaveringly high as the standard of care and concern for the individual student’s human development.
To foster a diverse community of mutual support, appreciation, and respect. Our schools must seek vigorously to ensure every one of our students can be known and appreciated as wonderfully unique individuals, and consistently provide them the tools and opportunities to connect with both their fellow students and with the adults of the school. We should seek to engage our students such that they form, all of them, a true and deep sense of belonging, even ownership of their school. Ideally we hope that everyone with a school will be known to each other by name and distinctive qualities, and we strive to ensure no one is overlooked. Each individual will be guided in self-knowledge, in emotional intelligence, in mutual respect, and in taking increasingly responsibility and respect for their surroundings and their fellows.
To empower our students as active learners, thinkers, and leaders. More so than ever before, the graduates of our schools will need to be lifelong learners and analytical thinkers; we must enable our students to ‘construct’ much of their understanding through critical inquiry, cooperative learning, experimentation, portfolio preparation, and demonstrations. We must empower our students to be active participants in their school and in the development of their own leadership skills of organizing, public speaking, and ethical decision-making.
To learn and serve ‘beyond the walls.’ Whether by tramping through a nearby stream, rappelling down a rock wall in a far-off mountain range, nailing up a drywall in a dilapidated city block, or zooming across the web, our schools must ensure that their wonderful smallness intersects frequently with the largeness of the greater world. Students should venture out to encounter and tackle challenges classrooms simply can never provide, developing in them a worldview encompassing confidence, reverence, and responsibility. As we do, we must reflect upon, and act upon, our responsibility to it, by incorporating and integrating service not as an add-on afterthought but as a core element of our schooling and learning.
To convey the scholastic tradition. In just a few thousand years our world civilization has accumulated a body of knowledge and wisdom that is our responsibility to pass to the next generation. Via study of ancient writings, primary sources, and engaging and interactive project-based education, we ensure our students pursue and acquire an understanding of the great heritage of cultures and peoples, from Euclid to Einstein, and from Timbuktu to Taiwan.
To forge global citizens and global stewards. Never has the world been so interconnected, and accelerating rate of globalization is dizzying. Our students have many more links with citizens and corporations of other continents than in the past, and to best prepare them, we must begin to provide them these opportunities in and throughout their schooling. Connection also engenders interdependence; we must all be learning in our schools how both to experience internationalism and how to reflect upon the difficult quandaries and essential obligations of this newly “flat” earth.
To honor our teachers as professionals and scholars. We ask much from our faculty members, and we must offer them much in turn: they are the ones who carry out our mission and purpose in the most meaningful of ways. We respect and value the independence and unique individuality which each teacher, standing alone in the classroom, relies upon for their task of engaging and inspiring; we expect also that each teacher share in the responsibility of advancing the collective mission and in modeling 21st century skills such as collaboration, inquiry, critical thinking, communication, and creativity. We build evaluation systems that are geared for growth and empowerment, while holding each other to the highest standards of accountability. We must build ever greater systems for faculty collaboration and professional development, and should include teachers in a culture of shared decision-making, especially in matters of student affairs, teaching methodology, and curriculum development.
To be a ‘civil society.’ In an increasingly atomized world, we must ‘bowl together.’ Our schools are wonderfully poised to become centers wherein we educate and connect not just our students to our teachers but also our parents, our alumni, and our neighbors. We must form and maintain the ties that bind in order to overcome the loneliness of the crowd.
To advance as an institution. Just as our students must become life-long learners, so must our schools engage in the never-ending quest to renew and prepare themselves not just for tomorrow’s children but for our children’s children. We must be concerned for appropriate and authentic methodologies for measuring our effectiveness as vehicles for guiding us further forward. While never forgetting to respect and care for the human side of school change, we need to hold high Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot’s standard for what is the single essential ingredient of a ‘good school’: “the willingness to search for the origins and solutions to our imperfections.”