Welcome to World Teachers’ Day 2020.
The theme for this year’s special day is Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future.
As a parent, you can’t ask for much more than a teacher who will lead and reimagine. As a parent, you would be delighted for your child to be in this type of teacher’s classroom. As a parent, you have a fair expectation that all teachers will fulfill this mantra – leading in crisis, reimagining the future.
It is no secret that there is a decline in the parent confidence of teachers. The profession has sadly been challenged by a decline in perceived status in society, hurdles placed before the profession by educational authorities, and a populous who thinks they are experts in everything.
As a marketing entrepreneur who recently decided to co-found a school, Park Street, it may seem that I too belong in that last category of know-it-alls. But I didn’t launch Park Street because I believe I know more about teaching than the professionals do. There was a simple and genuine insight that struck me like a thunderbolt during this pandemic. In fact it has struck all of us.
In simple terms, the education systems were not ready for a catastrophe of this magnitude. Neither the public nor the private systems. Furthermore the push to online learning, even when done on an ad hoc basis, has unfairly disadvantaged those that are already disadvantaged. Lastly, the way we live will forever be changed and I do not believe our current education system will change with it.
Plus I had a secret weapon. My father.
My father was a teacher and much more. He was a father figure to his students, a collaborator with his peers, and a champion of the school janitorial and support staff. He was even my teacher in my early high school years. Most importantly however, he was a role model. Even if I did not realize it at the time.
My father always led others through crisis and reimagined the future. He helped teenagers who faced economic, familial, and other challenges, find a way through them. He guided young men and women into careers they did not know were possible. He gave confidence to those lacking and mentored in the most powerful way possible. By showing, not telling.
Before there was the internet, my father practiced social media with his story telling. Before there was the concept of team bonding, my dad took his students on off-sites to build things that led to shared experiences. Before purpose was in vogue, my Dad had his students helping teach those with intellectual disabilities.
Show. Don’t Tell.
I named our new school “Park Street” in honour of my Dad. The school he enriched for a quarter-century was of the same name, but it was torn down a few years ago. The wrecking ball can knock down the walls, but it can’t stop the success of the thousands of people he helped.
While Park Street has an eye to the future of education, there is one fundamental tenant that we will never compromise – the role of our teachers. We want great teachers to be the backbone of our experience. Teachers build community. Teachers build children. Teachers build society. Teaching is the most important form of activism that exists in our society today.
I was extremely lucky to have my father as my greatest teacher. As an adopted child, I truly feel I’ve won the lottery. Today I feel I have won the lottery twice over. In Julie Champagne and Samantha Leach, I have found two co-founders and head teachers that are glaring reincarnations of my father. (If reincarnation is possible, given my dad is still alive.)
Julie and Sam are unbelievably intelligent people who could have pursued any career path they wanted. I think there is a perception that some people teach because they could not get a better job. Not these two.
Julie and Sam are unbelievably passionate teachers who care about the complete development of children above all else. Their teaching style is to understand the child first and teach the courses second, if not sometimes third.
Julie and Sam are also entrepreneurs at heart. As an entrepreneur myself I admire their innovation, their hustle, and their belief in taking control of their own careers, as opposed to waiting for a handout from an unseen hand.
A great teacher knows that nothing is handed to you in life. My father taught me that. Julie and Sam are reminding me of that daily.