Wednesday, January 29, 2014

PASSION IS ESSENTIAL

Perhaps the central reason why passion is an essential quality of great teachers is that it breeds commitment. The towering example of Marva Collins serves as proof that passion cannot be disconnected from commitment.  Marva Collins taught for 16 years in Chicago’s public school system.  She was disturbed by the substandard education students were subjected to in Chicago’s public schools. She grew annoyed by the dispassion-ate behavior of several teachers she worked with.  Collins felt that the school system was failing its students by not delivering on its promise to educate them.  Too many teachers had low-expectations of their students and were unprofessional and apathetic.  She was also displeased with the schooling her two younger children received at the prominent private schools they attended.  
In 1975, Marva Collins’s passionate dedication to the education of children motivated her to take her $5000 pension and invest it in the establishment of her own school, the Westside Preparatory Academy, in inner city Chicago.  Collins’s Westside Preparatory Academy was initially housed on the basement floor of Daniel Hale Williams University.  Collins and her husband remodeled the upper level of their home which later became the school’s new location. 
So she wouldn't have to abide by government regulations, Marva Collins refused to accept federal funding for her school.  Money was tight and Collins faced great difficulties as she tried to keep her school afloat financially.  She even resorted to going through the trash heap of discarded books at the board of education to retrieve books for her students. 
The forces of passion and commitment fueled the efforts of Marva Collins.  As a result, her students excelled within and without the walls of her schoolhouse.  During the Westside Preparatory Academy’s first year in existence, Collins accepted children between the ages of 4 and 14.  She took on children, who had been labeled troublesome, unteachable, disruptive, chemically impaired, behavior problems, and discipline problems.  She refused to accept the notion that the children were the problem.  Instead, Collins truly believed that the central factor in student achievement was a passionate, capable, committed classroom teacher.  She believed that the great teacher makes the “poor student good and the good student superior.” 

As a result of her fervent commitment to education, the students at Marva Collins’s Westside Prep tested five grade levels above their current grade levels within the school’s first year of existence.  One of the students included a girl who had been tagged “borderline retarded” by the experts of the public school system.  The girl’s mother was told that her daughter would never be able to read.  Not only did this same girl graduate from Westside Preparatory Academy, she also went on to graduate summa cum laude from a University in Virginia.  

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Passion is never enough

When discussing the subject of passion with my sister, a great New York City schoolteacher, she told me that passion is necessary, but it’s not enough—she’s right.  Passion must be coupled with other characteristics such as mental toughness, or “grit.”  No one ever achieved greatness without the quality of mental toughness. Mental toughness is essential because when you decide to be extraordinary, when you decide to go from good to great, adversity is inevitable. 
People who are mentally tough demonstrate the ability to concentrate on the accomplishment of a particular goal while enduring extraordinary difficulties, challenges, and trials.  Mentally tough people do not succumb to negative criticism, they reject doubt, and they refuse to be consumed by worries.  People who possess the quality of mental toughness have a desire to achieve excellence, to overcome every obstacle, and to conquer and extract the weaknesses within themselves. 
Mentally tough individuals exemplify persistence, resilience, and grit.  It was mental toughness that inspired James J. Corbett to say, “Fight one more round.  When your feet are so tired that you have to shuffle back to the center of the ring, fight one more round.  When your arms are so tired that you can hardly lift your hands to come on guard, fight one more round.  When your nose is bleeding and your eyes are black and you are so tired that you wish your opponent would crack you one on the jaw and put you to sleep, fight one more round—remember that the man who always fights one more round is never whipped.”  In the classroom arena, you will experience times when you feel abused, exhausted, and hurt.  Nevertheless, you must summons the courage to go one more round. 
It was knowledge of the necessity of mental toughness that influenced the words of Dr. Dennis Kimbro who wrote, “The best tools receive their temper from fire, their edge from grinding; the noblest characters are developed in a similar way.  The harder the diamond, the more brilliant the sparkle, and the greater the friction necessary to bring it out.  Only its own dust is hard enough to make this precious stone reveal its full beauty.  From an aimless, idle, and useless soul, opposition also calls out powers and virtues otherwise unknown and unsuspected.  Many times greatness will not make its entrance until adversity has paved the way.”  View the challenges you endure as nourishment.  Challenges are designed to make you stronger.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

THERE IS GREATNESS WITHIN YOU!

You, the classroom teacher, are the key to student success.  You are the number one factor affecting student achievement.  Your influence, your encouragement, your love, your inspiration, your work, and the demands you place on students will influence them for the rest of their lives.  Without you, there would be no other profession.  You hold the lives of your students in your hands.  Be great!Undoubtedly, teachers are among the most important people in the lives of students.  Great teachers impact the lives of students by encouraging them to excel, by inspiring them to believe in themselves, and by equipping them with the tools they need to become independent thinkers.  Indeed, to teach is to touch a life forever.  This is why Ivan Fitzwater called teaching “the greatest profession of all.”  This is why George Bernard Shaw said, “The sole hope of human salvation lies in teaching.”  This is why Bertrand Russell called teachers the “guardians of civilization.”  This is also why St. Ambrose wrote:


The temple that teachers built will last while ages roll
For that beautiful unseen temple is the child’s eternal soul.


Be great!