Every Spring (and sometimes late Winter), my Mom would endlessly harass my sister and I until we could definitively answer the question, "Where are you working this Summer?" From 1998 until 2006, my foray into the working world included jobs as a caddie, umpire, waiter, photographer, and...wait for it..."the dude that cleaned the park district pool." In those nine years, I learned valuable lessons about my career path, namely, that I didn't want any of those jobs. Inevitably, I would get a sinking and quasi-depressed feeling the night before I had to work only to be violently juxtaposed with the elation I would feel when the shift finally ended. I promised myself to never work a job "in the real world" where I had to experience those highs, and mostly those lows.
That being said, some of my basic educational philosophies are:
1. Create a place where people want to be.
Some say that if you find a job you like, you will never work a day in your life. Since I've been a teacher, I have not had that sinking feeling the night before a school day. I want to be there and I know it's proof that I'm in the right profession. There are few things as powerful as a positive school culture that pulls people in instead of pushing people away. Its vital that this culture includes both kids and adults who come to work in the building everyday, but also values the connection between a school and its community. It sounds like some sort of fantasy school "utopia," but in large and small ways we can make school fun.
2. Cura Personalis.
This is a Latin phrase meaning, "care for the whole person." I believe it is the school's job to create an environment that challenges every student and encourages everyone to find a better version of themselves. In engineering a diverse curriculum, affirming a wide range of interests and skills, and supporting the students' passions, a school can be the greatest influence on a child's life. What an amazing responsibility we all have in building a place grounded in academic rigor that also emboldens students to find their calling. High School is sometimes the last chance to reach them before the world reaches them. Maybe one day that kid won't have to dread his job, because he, too, found a career better than being the pool boy.
3. Leave it better than you found it.
In my world now, this means cleaning Nanna's vacation house for hours so that it looks better than it did when we arrived. As a boy scout, its what they told us about entering and exiting the forest after a camping trip in nature. Clean up after yourself. But in education, I think it means being the difference in each others' lives- not because we want the credit for "turning that kid around" or "getting that kid into college," - but because its what we are called to do. The greatest legacy is not what we leave FOR our kids, but what we leave IN our kids. Leave them better than you found them.