Why Teach? And Why Here?

Teacher Appreciation WeekIndependent school admissions is a competitive field.  Thank goodness. When a family has many viable choices, no school can afford to be mediocre.

Each school, including my school Evergreen, works to distinguish itself among its competitors. For this reason, the “Why?” button is ubiquitous on independent school web sites.  These buttons or links lead readers to pages that promotes the school’s unique benefits. Some Why Buttons are simple: Why Roycemore? Why Woods?  Some are more elegant: What distinguishes Chapin? Why Choose Landon?  Other Why buttons are direct: The Collegiate Advantage, The Columbus Academy Advantage, etc.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asked another important “Why” question this week in his blogWhy do teachers choose to teach? He writes:

When I ask teachers why they teach, they almost always say that it is because they want to make a difference in the lives of children. They talk about the joys of teaching and the singular rewards of watching children learn…

Duncan continues,

Yet stories of lasting and life-changing teacher-student relationships contrast starkly with what teachers say when asked about their profession. In short order, they lament inadequate training, top-down reforms, teaching to the test, budget cuts and a lack of time to collaborate.

No doubt, Arne Duncan spends much of his time speaking with US teachers who feel underappreciated for their efforts, their professionalism and their dedication to making a difference.  He notes that half of new teachers quit within five years. Data shared by Charles Blow in the New York Times (The Teacher Paywall 5/6/12) shows distressing levels of low morale among teachers. It is a pity to read such bad news, this being Teacher Appreciation Week and all.

Fortunately, this is not the news from Evergreen.

In the next several weeks, I will be collecting our teachers’ reflections on the Why of teaching at Evergreen.  Just like our families choose our school, our teachers have many choices about where they spend their careers.  They elect to teach here– and stay here (sometimes for 27 years or more).  Why?  Perhaps it is because of the respect with which they are treated as professionals; perhaps it is the way their efforts are honored by our families; perhaps it is our strong sense of community that makes every faculty member feel like an indispensable part of the team; perhaps it is our dedication to the school’s Montessori philosophy and the difference it makes in children’s lives.

I look forward to hearing our teachers’ answers to the Why questions. I will share their responses on my blog. For when you are choosing a school for your child, you will want to know why your child’s teachers have chosen, too.

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