Faculty of Difference
In my last blog I attempted to describe one of the great paradoxes of living in a more global community, the appeal of enjoying multiculturalism while wanting simultaneously to preserve distinct indigenous cultures. More specifically, I noted that “the strongest local communities are those that are comprised of families of difference.” In today’s entry I will make the parallel claim that the strongest school communities are those that are comprised of faculty of difference.
Although faculty of diverse backgrounds can indeed be differentiated by their own physical, linguistic, or cultural identifiers, the full scope of their impact on young children can only be measured by also considering the ways in which they actually make a difference in their lives. Children look up to their teachers not so differently from the way in which they look up to their parents and caregivers. In all instances they hope for direction, validation, and inspiration.
Elementary school teachers are technically and temperamentally well-suited to provide young children with gifts such as these. After all, both the “natural born” teacher and the most highly trained are those who focus as much on social development as on strict academics. Just consider the potential of genuine connection between teacher and student, the kind of bond that can create short-term trust as well as lifelong motivation. For teachers this potential finds fullest expression in a desire to make a difference.
In a political climate where teacher performance is most often associated with students’ test scores, I would argue that a teacher’s highest achievement can be measured by the degree to which he or she has provided clear direction, personally meaningful validation, and concrete motivation. Indeed, these are among the greatest gifts that a teacher can bestow upon a young person. Children who receive such gifts may live lives that are forever changed. This is what it means to have had a teacher of difference.