Thoughts on Ted Sizer

I recently attended the memorial service for an amazing man. Ted Sizer was a friend, colleague and mentor and his loss will be profoundly felt throughout the education world.

The service was a beautiful mix of remembrances/sharings from his children (there are four) and friends/colleagues from all different parts of his life: Harvard Graduate School of Education (in the 60s when students took over the buildings), Phillips Andover Academy (where he was headmaster from many years), Brown University, The Annenberg Institute, The Coalition of Essential Schools and The Parker Charter School. Deborah Meier’s comments were particularly moving and profound. She also wrote a beautiful piece about his legacy which you can read on her website.

Memorial Church in Harvard Yard is enormous, and it was totally totally filled, including babies and kids. Ted would have liked that. He would have liked the music and the singing too.

The reception afterwards was also something that Ted would have enjoyed. All his friends and family… all the many generations of educators he has had an impact on… It was overwhelmingly sad and also overwhelmingly joyous if that makes sense.

It was a perfect send off for Ted. I kept wanting him to be there to enjoy the conversations-and I wanted to ask him yet another question. He always listened to my questions and had good advice and suggestions. He had an incredible ability to listen.

While there, I kept thinking about how we are part of a school movement much bigger than us…it truly is a movement of educators that care about ideas like teacher as coach and student as worker. Hard, complex ideas that you never “do” or “complete” in a lifetime of teaching, but that keep you going and keep you asking how we can we do better. That’s what Ted always pushed for-doing better. Some called him naive, but it was his belief in the goodness of kids that kept him working so hard. It was his belief in the whole child that made him stand so strongly against high stakes standardized testing AND for democracy and equity in schools. He believed that schools could and should and would be places that weren’t “training grounds for life” but actual life itself.


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