Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

We can’t mandate what matters

Great letter to the editor of the New York Times by Keith W. Frome in Buffalo, New York:

To the Editor:

We travel around the country helping urban and rural high schools increase college enrollment rates for economically disadvantaged students. The principals and administrators we meet say that what they need are teachers who love students.

Yes, they admit, a teacher needs the most sophisticated tools and curriculums, as well as expertise in psychology, neuroscience, pedagogy, learning differences, and academic standards. But it is the teacher who has the greatest capacity to care and to connect with the students who makes the biggest difference.

One Buffalo school principal said, “The school district cannot mandate what matters, and what matters most is the ability to love the students.”

Where do we find such teachers, and how can schools of education deliberately begin to cultivate their students’ souls?

I think these teachers are all around us, but many have been and are being chased out of the classroom and the profession of teaching. The pressure of high-stakes accountability, the myth that good teaching is scripted teaching, unsupportive administrators and peer teachers, and low salaries are all reasons for their exodus.

No matter what your salary or situation, you still have the capacity to serve and to love. One of my favorite quotations from a sermon by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is his observation that “You don’t need a college degree to serve. You don’t need to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t need to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. All you need is a heart full of love, and soul full of grace.” Those are POWERFUL words of truth. If you want to hear those words in Dr. King’s own voice, visit the homepage of the The King Center and make sure your speakers or headphones are turned on!

We’ve all likely known (and may still know) teachers that not only don’t seem to love their students, they don’t seem to like any of them either. We need to talk about, recognize, celebrate and therefore value the love and positive relational connections which teachers STILL DO make with their students each day.

In answer to Keith’s question, I think our schools of education can deliberately cultivate a love for students in the pre-service and in-service teachers they serve by TALKING ABOUT and TELLING STORIES ABOUT the power of love and a servant’s heart to positively influence the lives of students in the classroom. We need to share more teacher impact stories. When we share them locally, we should get permission to record and share them globally.

We’ve been hardwired for storytelling since the cave, and that physiologic predisposition doesn’t seem to have changed even with the advent of digital natives, digital immigrants, digital refugees, and digital bridges.

Thanks to Pete Riley for sharing this link as a comment to another post here.

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On this day..







2 responses to “We can’t mandate what matters”

  1. pete reilly Avatar

    yes, yes. AND these same gifts of love and service are at the core of great school leaders. The best are those that aren’t just administrating, managing, and supervising; but leading from the heart.

    This truth is rarely discussed in our admin certification courses which are almost all wedded to the cognitive domain.


  2. Stephen Downes Avatar

    I don’t think you need the exaltations of love and grace in order to be able to serve. A simple sense of personal dignity will do, and will serve better in the end.