by R. Lewis Cordell
The act of teaching is audacious. The professional educator is possessed in the best of cases with a hybrid dose of humble hubris. The educator believes with every fiber of being that learning brings change; changes brings hope; hope can change the world. This intoxicating intrigue is lens through which the teacher views the world. The educator is driven by zeal and conviction to share a view of the world that has been informed by study and observation. A teacher is always cognizant of fellow travelers. A teacher believes that everyone has exactly the same opportunity to access knowledge, knowing, and power to change.
It was such an act of audacity that compelled me to write my little book, New School, Chasing Excellence: Yesterday's Schools, Today's Teachers, Tomorrow's Learners , for the 1.6 million new teachers who will enter the profession in the next decade. Obligation not choice propelled me. My grandmother was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in the early 1900s in America. Her name is Coleen. At 19 years of age, she educated children ranging in age from 6 to 15 years. She did this without a support network. It was her alone who would sell these children on the belief that they could learn, and that they can bring change to their world. She was guided by a simple principle: honest human connection is the path way to learning.
In a similar act of audacity, I grabbed a few hard copies of my book on the way out my door to the airport. I was leaving San Diego, California to start my summer vacation. I reasoned that I might run into a friend or meet someone to whom I would like to present a copy of my little book. This was actually an act of imagination, audacity, and hubris. I thought perhaps I would surreptitiously drop a copy in a first class seat or somewhere hoping that someone with a voice would pick it up and quote me someday.
As I am standing in line waiting for the widely accepted indignities of pat- downs and body scans that are now a common part of traveling in the post 9/11 world, I spot a familiar face in the crowd. I had not spoken to this man before our post-TSA shared experience. I did not know him, but thanks to the innovation of information sharing and digital venues such at TED Talks, this man has been a regular guest in my home.
Both of us made it through the polite interrogation process simultaneously. I approached him, extend my hand, and addressed him. “Sir Ken Robinson”, I said. “My name is Ron, and I am a fan of your work”, I continued. “I have an odd request of you. I would like to know if I may present you with a copy of a book that I have written about education”, I said. He is an English gentleman educator through and through. “It would be an honor”, he said. He is obviously a teacher. He obviously detected that my subtle case of nerves betrayed my conjured confidence. I suppose one is not given the title of Sir without a proper reason. Sir Ken Robinson politely asked me the questions that allowed me to talk about what I had approached him to talk about—Me. Now that is indeed gracious. That is what a teacher does.
Thank you Sir!
R Lewis Cordell (40,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, June 25, 2012)