Great Teachers Do

Doing is SO much harder than saying, pointing, or quoting.  Inspired by the prompts in another great #satchatwc, guest hosted by Jay Billy, I ask us to consider the gap between the posters on our wall, the quotes we love to share, the heroes we seek to emulate…and what we do each day. If you go back through the chat feed, you will find the most amazing collection of poster quotes about risk, leadership, passion, character, and more. You will be inspired by the depth of human capacity to understand and distill these complex aspirations. You will see that wonderful and aspirational educators have created our own catechism based on these core elements of what we want to pass along to our students.

I agreed with nearly every quote shared. Many were the sayings of my own heroes. So why take the time to be difficult, to dig into the weeds and question such an exercise of wonderful collaboration and celebration? Why ask about the nature of catechisms?

I have been able to step into more different classrooms than most others. I see the quote posters on the walls.  I have attended many keynote speeches given by compelling speakers who make us want to be our better selves.  If we believe in this litany so passionately, then why do most classrooms look and feel like cogs on the assembly line, rather than like engines fueled by risk-taking, passion, inspiration, joy, and the rest? That, of course, is a rhetorical question; we know the answer: because the system of education is stuck, and educators are required to focus on teaching “stuff” that we don’t actually value as much as what we actually want and believe in.

I don’t buy it.  We either have to “do” what we “believe”, or not.  If I had to capture the confluence of risk-taking, leadership, character, and passion, it would be this: either do what the posters say, not within the confines of a prescribed system but DESPITE the confines of a prescribed system, or tear down the posters.  We have to “be” those things, despite a system based on us NOT being them. It is hard, but isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what we want for our students? Isn’t that what it means to be a great teacher?

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