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Community of Courage
Assistant Professor of Education
I am honored to be here tonight representing the professions as a faculty member of the School of Education and truly, the entire faculty, who are called to educate the minds and hearts of all our students.
When my nephew, Max, was three he asked me what I did for work. I told him that I taught teachers. Max replied with amazement, "You TEACH teachers? But teachers know EVERYTHING!" After my moment of hero worship was over, I reflected on the power of Max's statement. This child had already captured what many people feel about teachers at all levels. When surveyed, the American public has consistently ranked teaching as one of the most beneficial professions to society. Teachers shape lives. They are charged with the incredible task of educating all students that come to them in academics and citizenship. And yet teachers must do this amidst constant scrutiny, changing standards, and an increasingly diverse student population that demands new ways of approaching curriculum and delivering instruction. However, we take this in stride because ultimately, our profession is about what's best for the kids.
Our students are the future. We must always ask how we can do our job better to ensure every child is reaching his or her potential to positively contribute to our community and society as a whole. This isn't easy, but it can be as simple as looking inside those that sit in each of our classrooms to bring forth their assets and passion for doing something great.
Each individual is infinitely unique and possesses different gifts, whether it's the gift of compassion or thinking mathematically. It is these unique gifts and talents that when brought together, complement each other and strengthen the community. Teachers at any grade level are in a distinct position to guide their students toward recognizing their capabilities through an encouraging word and the permission to succeed despite possible boundaries.
When I ask the teacher candidates I prepare why they have gone into teaching, they respond with myriad reasons for positively contributing to society, but they also say, "Someone told me I would be good at this." This person was often a teacher. The impact of this kind of statement cannot go unnoticed. Psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner says, "In order to succeed, every child needs one person that is absolutely crazy about them." Teachers often fill that role for students. We're on the front lines of seeing our students in different lights, bridging their personal interests and strengths today to positive contributions in the future.
In the end, I don't think teaching is about knowing everything. What's essential is knowing everything about our students. We need to know what inspires them, what they're afraid of, what they're good at, and what they still need to know to accomplish their goals. We need to know how to connect the content to their lives in order to make it real and applicable. We need to be an educated guide to serve all of our students for the greater good of the community, walking along side and sometimes showing them the way.
Spiritual activist Marianne Williamson states, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you NOT to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."
At Whitworth, in our teacher preparation programs and across campus, we do this with an education of mind and heart, encouraging our students to nurture their gifts and pursue their vocation, and in doing so, honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity. It takes individual courage and the entire educational community, but it's well worth the effort.