By Bill Mulcahy, Head of Lower School
During an infrequent check of social media recently, a friend from graduate school posted a significant milestone—the 20th year of his education career. If he was in his 20th year as an educator and we began our educational careers together, then that must mean that I am in my 20th year of education as well. 20 years!
My first thought was disbelief. It hasn’t felt like 20 years! I enjoy the field of education as much now as I did when I entered it two decades ago. I still wake up happy to go to school every morning and feel a sense of purpose that comes with doing work that positively impacts others.
My second thought was to think about all of the things that have changed in the world in the past 20 years. The world feels very different than it did then. And much of education feels different than it did 20 years ago. And yet, the enduring, foundational qualities of education remain the same:
Relationship-Building Is Critical. Students learn best when they are surrounded by educators who get to know them and convey care daily. As a first-year teacher, there were many things about successful teaching that I would learn by doing, and that would take experience to develop. But the best advice I got that year from successful, veteran teachers? Ask your students questions, listen intently, and provide targeted, positive feedback. Doing so builds trust and creates safety for students, and students do best when they feel cared for and connected to the adults in their lives.
Learning Never Stops. A joy of working in schools is that the learning never stops for both students and adults. Just like student learning requires students to be challenged, being a successful educator requires continual growth and learning. Every week we are learning something new as educators or navigating unique and new challenges. And our students are asked to do the same weekly as students. Problem-solving is one of the many things that makes working at schools so engaging and rewarding!
Content is Crucial. While there have been many changes over the years in how we deliver instruction and how children acquire information (especially in the older grades), the importance of what we teach— how to prepare students to be strong readers, writers, mathematicians, citizens of the world, kind and inclusive people. etc.—has stayed very similar the past two decades. I recently saw a quote from John Medina, author of Brain Rules, that resonated with me. He stated, “Creation without knowledge is the equivalent of playing the air guitar; you might know the motions, but you aren’t able to play.”
Here’s to 20 more years!