We talk about passion and compassion in the same breath at our school. When I try to make my point a bit more graphic for students in the Junior School, when I talk about the Mission, I refer to passion and compassion as twins: they are born together and live together and go through life together at our school. More on that in a moment.
We have an array of students in our school to die for, as the saying goes. We have the teaching staff to match. I would never propose that they are perfect, and nor would they. Many who attempt to judge the quality of a teaching staff will often look at the list of their qualifications. As he who does the hiring, I can say that one of the easiest things is to assemble a glossy list of credentials. While our staff does possess commendable credentials – most have Masters degrees, a few have Doctoral degrees – I have found that credentials do not make a good teacher. Interestingly – and although many compensation schemes allocate more money for additional credentials – more scientific research than my own anecdotal observation also indicates that advanced degrees have no correlation with teaching quality. My own view, for our students, is that advanced degrees nevertheless indicate something worthwhile: they indicate a passion for one’s subject and profession that translates into knowledge and commitment that is important for bright students. Passion plays a part in the pursuit of advanced degrees.
That word slipped out, but I will leave it, since it is where I was going next. Passion. What distinguishes our teachers, given their credentials and mastery of their subjects, is passion: for kids and for those kids to pursue excellence. The professional responsibility of a teacher isn’t to his or her subject, but to the students (which is different from simply giving them whatever will make them smile). If one is passionate about kids, then compassion is close behind; the one fits over the other like a glove over a hand, and this is what our staff extends to our students. Two days ago, as we do at the start of every term, our entire staff had a professional development exercise. Once again the occasion emphasised for me among my colleagues their passion for continual improvement. This can be draining – after all, you are compelled to question knowledge or practices that several months or years earlier you thought were the bedrock of professional expertise, and that earned you the approval of both School and students. But students are organized entities, so are schools, and so is one’s professional life. Nothing is more important in our school than excellent teaching.