A perspective of the goal of education
I believe education has nothing to do with imparting knowledge or teaching a “thing.” It is, rather, helping people make powerful decisions. Every moment children are confronted with choices to make. A first grader’s pencil breaks, and he needs to decide: Do I raise my hand and ask the Teacher? Do I use a crayon? Do I take my neighbor’s pencil? Teachers are there to help children negotiate these decisions so that they can be powerful and make choices that open up new possibilities. This is exactly the same thing the higher math teacher does when she shows her students ways to solve quadratic equations: she is helping them to make powerful decisions.
In order to do this, excellent teachers honor the sacred relationship of “I-Thou-It”. “I-Thou-It” refers to the interrelatedness of teacher (I), student (Thou) and the task to be successfully negotiated (It). We must remember the teacher (I) represents not only the adult in the classroom, but peers, parents, popular culture, things celebrated, all that serve to influence the learner.
An excellent teacher is constantly assessing the interplay of I, Thou and It, and making adjustments to honor each of them. Too much focus on the “It “and neglecting the learner, “Thou”, results in rigid teaching and turned-off learners. On the other hand, focusing on the child without enough regard to the task to be learned results in squishy standards and the student is robbed of his potential.
Excellent teachers accord dignity to all the elements, constantly assess and adjust the only thing they can, their role in the matter, the “I”. This is what they can control, but what influence that can have on the whole! Excellent teachers understand and are sensitive to the interplay of “I, Thou, and It”.
Teachers are people who lead and empower people to make choices and decisions. They are playing the role of leaders and fostering leadership skills in students leading by example. In this context let us look at what good leadership entails.
I believe that good leadership requires both management and leadership skills. Management is transactional; it maintains the effectiveness of existing processes and structures. It makes sure things get done as they should get done. Just as leaders must manage processes and structures, they cannot manage people. This distinction is crucial: Processes and structures are managed, but people are led. Leadership is creative, brings possibilities into a place where they can be envisioned, and inspires.
The best leaders are those who meaningfully contribute to human enterprise, love people, young and old. They have a vision of possibility; they inspire when they communicate; and they have a commitment to workability, turning even the constraints of the job (limited budget, fluctuation in personnel, timetable impediments) into guidelines that define a solvable problem