Why I teach at a Quaker school

Certainty based on something I don’t understand

For a long time I have known that I wouldn’t draw the same satisfaction out of teaching if I didn’t work at a Quaker school. But I haven’t been sure why. I have come close to putting my finger on why a few times, but it was only this year that my reflections on teaching have helped me see more clearly why I feel committed to the vision of a school based on Quaker values.

There it is. “Based on Quaker values.” The prompt itself seems problematic. That line is part of what makes putting my finger on why even more challenging. What are Quaker values? How do they influence a school from the Board to the students?

Let’s write it down

Answers come and go. Sure, “Quaker values” can be delineated: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Stewardship. But everything beyond that (and that includes a lot) seems fleeting. Quakerism is a non-creedal religion, and in my moments of frustration — aren’t atheistic Quakers a contradiction in terms? is it fair to say that Quakerism is a philosophy as much as it is a religion? — I return to the lack of a creed. Maybe it is just my perspective as a Latin and Computer Science teacher that has me hung up on documentation, but for a long time I have been hungering for something more about what “Quaker values” really means. And I want it in writing so that we can agree or disagree, dialogue, and grow.

So here is my own attempt: the magic of investing my professional life in a Quaker school stems from the fact that we are an institution rooted in faithContinue reading

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Mistakes, empathy, and serendipity

Everywhere I turn I see people telling teachers to “get out of the way.” Even this week’s TED prize winner, Sugata Mitra, is envisioning a future of learning that involves grannies more than teachers. So how do I justify myself as an educator at an expensive bricks-and-mortar independent school?

Because I  believe that the progressive independent school experience is greater than the sum of its parts. We aim to graduate students who are more than skilled and knowledgeable. We think that our educational experience offers something else. How do we put our finger on that factor? What do we offer that no digital experience can? I want to throw in a few ideas, stir the pot, and try to figure out how to do the math that proves that 2 + 2 = 5. 

Continue reading