A guest blog by Matthew Switzer, a 2011 Gold Star Teacher.
(Thanks Matthew! Read more of Matthew’s musings at his blog!)
Have you ever heard of the phrase, “a whole greater than the sum of its parts?” It comes from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who was referring to the ability of a group to act in more incredible ways than the efforts of individuals combined. He knew that if people have a common goal, united to promote each other, anything is possible.
I perceive the Gold Star Awards in much the same way. I wish I could say this great honor is based solely on the efforts of the classroom teacher, but I know that it isn’t true. A Gold Star teacher is the result of the combined efforts of everyone involved with the school.
Aristotle’s phrase always seems to remind me of cookies- I’ve eaten chocolate chips, tasted flour, have had sugar, was dared to eat a stick of butter (once), and have had raw eggs before. Until the ingredients are mixed, however, and baked with love, those things individually do not taste the same as a chocolate chip cookie. Trust me on this one; there is something much more appealing about eating a cookie than trying to ingest each of these ingredients individually.
Let’s unpack this idea a little more: with the many responsibilities and duties of a teaching classroom in mind, like testing, designing relevant and rigorous curriculum, effective teaching and learning, reteaching, and assessing the learning, not to mention establishing community, school, and classroom cultures, and maintaining relationships with everyone involved in a school, you can see how one single person would be hard-pressed to be successful in a classroom by themselves.
Could a teacher do this alone? Not for long. How about a student? While I have been blessed with some of the greatest students in Iowa, all of this would be too much to ask of even them. What about a parent? Or a principal? Or a custodian, lunchroom employee, local business owner, police officer, or parent?
Our individual efforts may work for a while, but until we come together to work toward a common goal, we would be missing that little extra something that makes a classroom a great place to be; that extra, Gold Star-chocolate chip cookie quality which that we strive for our students.
So, what makes a teacher a Gold Star Teacher? Here are my ingredients:
– A fantastic, wonderful, incredible, kind, hard-working group of students that I enjoy seeing and interacting with everyday
– The most supportive parents I could ever ask for- people who want the teachers to succeed as much as they want their students to succeed
– Co-workers who help with lessons, tests, students, and who make our school a great place to be
– People who work tirelessly to make sure our school is a safe, fun, and healthy environment
– Graduates who come back to give a unique experience to a new group of learners
– A community that values and encourages our students in every way possible
– and finally, the teacher in the classroom
It is this entire mix, baked with love and a common drive, that makes our school a place greater than the sum of the parts. Anyone have any milk?