Our Head of School
Leah Summers is the Interim Head of School and Principal for the 2013-2014 school year
One of our central goals as a school is to ensure that GHA is a place that excites childrens' curiosity. It is a truism that we can never teach a student everything of value prior to graduation. What we can do, however, is instill in our students the desire to keep questioning. Our goal as educators should be to help our students develop a thirst for inquiry.
Education, of course, is about learning and knowing, but it is more than that. It should also be about the continual unfolding of one's ignorance. It is about confronting one's ignorance, being excited by it, and discovering the resources to make a dent in it. The role of the teacher, therefore, is to show students that questions are not necessarily a sign of ignorance but the engine that fuels discovery. Knowledge grows out of questions. In turn, knowledge generates new questions.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once paraphrased Socrates and said that the role of the teacher is to be the midwife to the birth of questions. That is the guiding light in my educational philosophy. A teacher's task is not to fill children's minds but to awaken children's minds. We all know that the deadliest classes are not the ones where students are not catching on. Ignorance is not the sign of a poor education. It is passive acceptance of truths, the belief that answers, not questions, count most, or the unfortunate notion that we know everything there is to know about a subject.
In a school where teachers challenge students, pique their curiosity, deepen their knowledge through questions, and foster a love of inquiry, such a school is filled with teachers that approach their own discipline of teaching in the same way. In other words, they, too, are continually evolving. They, too, are lifelong, voracious learners. They, too, are animated by good questions.
Excellent teachers never fall prey to the belief that they are good enough. They do not respond to new ideas with "I already do that." They reflect. They read about education. They seek out the best professional development opportunities. They deepen their content knowledge through ongoing inquiry and derive an abiding sense of happiness from following up on their questions.
Carol Ann Tomlinson, a professor of education at the University of Virginia, tells the story of an older gentleman that attended one of her teacher workshops. The man was deeply engaged in her presentation and at the break approached Professor Tomlinson to ask a question. In the course of the conversation, he happened to remark that he will be retiring soon after 40 years of teaching. Professor Tomlinson wondered what he was doing at the conference given his imminent retirement. The man responded, "I promised myself that I would learn something new everyday that I was a teacher. I've kept that promise for four decades and will do so until the day I close the classroom door behind me. How else could I have been the teacher my students needed!"
These are the teachers all students need. This is the culture of learning and teaching that we are creating at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy