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Pausing to Give Thanks for the Faculty at GUS

Thursday, December 8, 2016

This is, indeed, a very busy and joyful time of year. It is a time for giving thanks, sharing meals and gifts, being with family, and demonstrating compassion and kindness. It is also, both at school and at home, a time of increased energy, volume, and excitement. It makes sense that every December, amidst the hustle and bustle, I find myself pausing to give thanks for the faculty at GUS.

This past November we had two admission events at which our head of school, David Liebmann, spoke to prospective families. In his opening remarks he talked about what he looks for when he hires faculty. First and foremost, he looks for happy people. Why is happiness important? Popular opinion might encourage us to believe that pressure and expectations lead to better productivity and performance. But, in fact, most studies show that people perform better when they are happily engaged in what they do.

If you ask teachers why they went into teaching, many will fondly tell a story of a teacher who profoundly influenced them. Teachers can make a huge and lasting impact on the lives of their students. A study conducted by the RAND corporation, which uses research to inform public policy, states that “When it comes to student performance on reading and math tests, a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and even leadership.” In my opening remarks at Back to School Night this fall, I spoke about the importance of the student-teacher relationship. Child development expert Michael Thompson writes, “For young children, the teacher-child relationship is a love relationship. In fact, it may be their first love relationship after their parents and it can be pretty powerful and wonderful. This is one of the first relationships with an adult your child may have outside the family unit.”

The faculty at GUS know how precious the teacher-child relationship can be, especially for younger students. As they begin their more formalized schooling, children can fall quickly and completely in love with their teachers. They often demonstrate that love and affection freely and with enthusiasm. For teachers, there’s nothing sweeter than walking down the hall to cries of hello and tight, full-speed embraces. GUS teachers are warm, accessible, and caring, and they love children! They work on building strong relationships with their students because they know that children are successful when they feel safe, cared for, and supported. 

So what else makes a great teacher? And why are the GUS faculty so special? First, they set high expectations for their students. These expectations, coupled with a growth mindset, reflect that we believe all students can find success in our classrooms and that our work must focus on reaching all learners all the time. Our teachers meet this goal of differentiation in a number of ways. They plan, before school, after school, and on the weekends. Not a weekend goes by when you don’t find one or more teachers hard at work in their classrooms. They are prepared and organized. The co-teaching model is a wonderful privilege and one of the reasons why the lower school teachers love their jobs. That said, co-teachers work well together because of a great deal of co-planning, communication, and trust.

Teaching is one of the most complicated jobs today. Good elementary teachers must have a broad knowledge of curriculum, a variety of subject matter, child development, social and emotional needs, and more. They must possess a love of learning because they are expected to pursue and, typically, very much want to pursue ongoing professional development. Their learning never ends because each class and each individual student has unique needs.  Teachers must have a facility for classroom management techniques and strategies to support and extend the learning for all students. With all these qualities needed, it is no wonder that finding great teachers takes time.   

At Glen Urquhart, we live the school motto, “Mean Well, Speak Well, Do Well.” In that spirit, we actively participate in a variety of service efforts. In this holiday season, we encourage you to join us in these efforts by participating in the Snowflake Sale. In lieu of gifts, please honor GUS faculty and staff by purchasing snowflakes for $2 each. All proceeds from the sale go to the Beverly Bootstraps Food Pantry.

 

Sarah Kotwicki

Director of Lower School