April 11, 2020
What really makes for an impactful education? Is it the expensive science equipment? The size of a school’s library? The quality of sports fields and gymnasiums?
As the headmaster of a private school, I would argue that, while these things are important, they are not most important. And, as a dad of three students who attend my school, I would offer that what is most important is who teaches my children and what they are being taught.
Everything else has its place and value, but when students graduate, more important than anything is what resides in their minds and hearts. And that comes, in large measure, from teachers and curriculum.
During this Covid-19 pandemic, students across America and around the world are turning to distance learning options, developed and implemented by their teachers with parents facilitating at home in many cases.
The quality of science equipment no longer matters. Nor do a school’s computer lab, beautiful facilities or sports programs. What matters now is what students learn and who is facilitating that learning. This season of global distance learning will reveal the quality of our teachers and content in a greater way than ever before.
Following the death of author C.S. Lewis, a quote of his from previously unpublished writings was found. To paraphrase: “Each generation can pass on to its successors only what it has. If skeptical, we shall teach only skepticism; if fools, only folly; if vulgar, only vulgarity, if saints, sanctity; if heroes, heroism. Education is the best of channels where each generation influences the next. What a teacher has will be passed on. What a teacher does not have cannot be passed on.”
In other words, Lewis agrees that, along with being content specialists, teachers must also know the value of universal truths, such as loving our neighbor, caring for the poor, honoring our parents, and acting courageous during times of hardship or injustice. These types of teachers will not only instill knowledge in students, but also help them be more human.
In this time of national anxiety, the challenges are great. Adjusting to such a different way of living is difficult at best. Yet, let’s also consider the great possibilities of the lifelong impact teachers can have on their students during this time, even if at a distance.
To all the teachers persevering and innovating to shape the hearts and minds of our nation’s youth to become people not only of knowledge, but also of character and compassion, I salute you. To all the parents partnering with educators to a degree greater than ever before, I applaud you.
Let’s determine that this spirit of partnership and commitment to what truly matters continues long after we once again experience the welcome normalcy of the past
Christopher P. DeSanctis is the head of school at Gateway Academy in Staten Island, NY, and a part-time adjunct professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.