Last week I did a book talk at Brandeis University’s beautiful Rose Art Museum. The faculty from the education department invited me to speak with both their graduate (MAT) students and education undergraduates. Brandeis included the book talk on their list of activities for Parent Weekend, which was so cool! I was also honored to have a colleague from Boston Public Schools in the audience, principal Mary Driscoll of the Edison K-8. Mary’s son is a freshman at Brandeis.
Having just read Larry Myatt‘s beautiful piece about Ted Sizer in the Forum for Democracy, I was thinking a lot about the contributions Ted Sizer made to public education. Horace’s Compromise was first published in 1984 and is still relevant today. I feel privileged to have had Ted for a mentor, and always try and bring him into the room, if you will, when I speak about my work in education and about why I write. There aren’t enough of us out there telling the stories of struggle and success in our schools, while there seem to be many loud voices outside of our school communities telling us about the many ways we are failing young people.
I’m always encouraged when I speak to college-age (and graduate school) students about their desire to go into public education. I’m often inspired by their vision and persistence. I was asked for a few words of advice at the end of the talk last week and here is what I said: “Teaching requires flexibility and strength. Flexibility to continuously adapt your repertoire and to keep learning alongside your students. And strength to be grounded even when the onslaught of needs from a class of 26 or 30 young people seems impossible to manage, and also strength to avoid getting into power struggles-you can’t win kids over that way. I also told them that (and I’m not sure how well this was received) in my mind, it takes at least 5 years to learn to be a good teacher-not an excellent one-but a good one.
I finished my talk with a personal request to each and every aspiring teacher: “Please stick with this profession. It is a wonderful one and we need all of you!”