A Researcher is driven by curiosity and committed to a lifelong study of children. She asks questions and tests her ideas; observes and reflects on her observations; theorizes and shares her theories with others through dialogue and documentation.
An Author carefully, lovingly crafts the shared language, the routines and rituals, and the documentation that give shape and reality to her educational philosophy. An Artist builds a culture of beauty, inclusion and expression through her arrangement of space and materials; her choice of learning activities; and her interactions with children and their work. A Composer orchestrates the underlying structure that protects a basic sense of security and calm, yet supports complexity and ambition.
A Companion believes that every child is a sacred individual with a particular path in this life, and believes herself privileged to assist children in finding and walking that path. In a school where we pledge to do “nothing without joy,” teachers genuinely enjoy their lives with the children and relish what we like to call “the pleasure of their company.”
A Learning Partner believes education to be a deeply social process. In too many American schools, interactions between teachers and children focus on what Jerome Bruner calls the “boring stuff of petty management” — where to sit, how to line up, when to shift activities, what to do with a one-dimensional material. The rest of the time, teachers are evaluating children, doling out praise or criticism. What’s absent? Teachers engaged with the content that engages the children. Alfie Kohn offers a useful distinction between ways of being with children that are “doing to” — punishment, praise, bossing and other forms of control — and ways of being with children that are “doing with.” We see ourselves as adults who create, think, reflect, imagine, problem-solve, learn and live joyfully WITH the children whose lives we share. We are serious about working playfully.
A Grown-up teacher does not confuse her deep respect for children and their capacities — her belief that children are equal in value to adults — with the idea that children and adults have the same roles and responsibilities in the classroom. She believes in childhood as a distinct and valuable stage of life. She recognizes that children need their grown-ups to be clear; to be strong; to be confident; and most of all, to be constant in their expression of absolute belief in every child. She knows that children in groups depend on adults to help them negotiate conflict and include each other. She means what she says; owns her mistakes; monitors her own emotional issues; and never takes it personally when children make mistakes on their own long road to becoming grown-ups themselves.
My hunch is that if we allow ourselves to give who we really are to the children in our care, we will in some way inspire cartwheels in their hearts.