My daughter was five years old when she turned to her favorite stuffed animal during one of my many moments of distraction via the telephone and expressed with a veracity that only finds itself when we are present with the moment, "Education! Education! Education! All my daddy ever talks about is education!" This was, of course, followed by a most delightful little smirk, as the winds of greater wisdom came sweeping across her youthful yet deliberate face. It was a learning moment -- for me.
I am an educator. This is true. Education has been where my passion has met with purpose for nearly a quarter century.
I am an educator. And so are you.
If we are walking this planet, breathing life into our lungs with each new breath, then we are playing the dual role of educator and the educated. Teacher and student -- with preferably a greater emphasis on the latter to be more effective in the former.
Parents, you are educators.
Teachers, you are educators.
Members of the local, national, international learning communities, you are educators.
And we are being schooled each and every moment in the importance of such.
The state of education in America is at a crossroads. The state of education in America is always at a crossroads. It is the natural state of being American to constantly critique what it is we do in education, should do; must do. The challenge lies in that the global landscape of what education needs to provide is shifting. IQ development. EQ development. Teach to the test. Teach to the child. The teacher as 'sage.' The teacher as 'guide.' The debate goes on and on.
What cannot be debated -- at least not reasonably so -- is that we have to be all in, and by that I mean all, and I mean in-volved. Since the first breath taken by the child, the parent signed on as the primary educator. Not secondary. Primary. Whether we like it or not, we as parents are the ones that have the greatest influence in the development of our child -- socially, emotionally, intellectually; spiritually even (if one is so inclined). The school is not the primary education institution for the child. The home is, first and foremost.
And where does that leave the school? The teacher? Right there at 1.a in importance. That's right, everyone. We are in partnership. The role of the teacher -- and other members of the professional educating body -- is to work in partnership with the parent and the home in guiding and inspiring the child in the unveiling of the unique set of gifts he or she has within them, in order that they may move with confidence, self-awareness and purpose in bringing these gifts into the world. As Michelangelo once articulated so gracefully when asked how it was that he could sculpt such divine creations, he responded, 'I saw the angel and carved until I set him free.'
There you have it! The role of education in its most basic function: to guide and assist the child in carving (away) until he or she 'sets the angel free.' The angel in this case is a metaphor. The children are not. They remain the most angelic forms we may know on earth. And we owe them the right, the privilege, of knowing themselves and then gifting themselves to the world. Education, at school and at home, provides for such possibility. For the power of the possible to create a greater version of ourselves and of our society rests with such cause -- in action.
I call upon all parents to embrace our role more fully. It requires but three 'easy' steps:
1. Be present
2. Be loving
3. Be supportive and be of service
And I call upon all teachers and other education professionals to embrace our role:
1. Know the child
2. Teach to and through the child
3. Be loving and be of service
Easier said than done? Why, of course. Isn't anything of greatest meaning, highest value in the physical world accomplished not through what is acquired through ease, but what is paid for through our awakening to a greater side of ourselves in overcoming that which once challenged us, tested us, dared us to stretch not beyond our capabilities, but to our true abilities. We ask this of our children, our students. They require this of us in return.
And the role of the community of whatever size and scope? Involve. Invest. Invent. Get involved. It is your future in their hands. Invest of your time, your resources. Education in all forms will never complain of an oversupply of resources, tools, and talent. And invent. America was arguably the home of the greatest period of innovation and creativity in modern times. The 20th century in America was not an accident, but rather the direct result of a partnership between home and school that worked, stimulating a society of great thinkers and inventors.
We have been there before. We can re-invent ourselves yet again. But only through the use of 'mirrors,' where the reflection of those who must step up may be found. Only then may we play witness through the many windows into tomorrow -- our children -- to what is possible when one dares to dream... and then make it so.