Keystone Magazine - Page 30

Interview Q: What education principles and philosophies do you agree with or subscribe to? A: In the statement of educational philosophy that I wrote for my own application to work at Keystone, I talked about the necessity of being present. In order for education to really fulfill its function of the growth and liberation of people, the teacher and the students have to be fully present in the classroom. We have to be all there, in the moment, listening to each other. As an educator, I have to attempt to understand and know what is going on in a student’s head and heart. This is key to the process of differentiated learning. I know that the very best lessons that I have been a part of is when the students are leaning forward and everyone is listening intently to what is happening, and the 45 minutes is over before anyone looks at their watch or the wall because everyone was present to the conversation. David Beare at an office meeting Q: We understand that Keystone has set high standards for its teachers. Can you describe what these standards are? A: First and foremost, we are looking for teachers, whether international or Chinese, who love children, learning and teaching - this is the baseline for us. We need people who know their subjects and craft extremely well, and who are respectful listeners so that they can lead programs forward. It is also important that staff members are flexible, have robust senses of humor, can get along well with other people, and are willing to share their lives with students in a residential setting and build something together. From our international teachers, we are looking for staff who are really interested in being in China, want to live in Beijing and work with Chinese kids, and interested in what China brings to the table of education. From our Chinese teachers, we are looking for staff who are open and interested in a variety of modes of pedagogy and ways that they can learn from the world. All teachers - and we have had literally hundreds of resumes from people who could do the job, who have had success in their own setting, who are smart, and have had good success in their own schooling - must have values that align with those that we have at Keystone. We emphasize sense of humor because teachers need to understand that they can bring the flexibility of their mind and personality into the classroom. This is not to say that teachers have to be well liked or must make friends with the students. I am not there in the classroom to be a student’s friend. Rather, I am in the classroom to understand what that student needs at any given moment in their intellectual and social development, and to challenge them in appropriate ways or give them the support that they need to flourish. But humor can be a very effective way to humanize this process. There are also many other elements of starting a school together that require us to be flexible and have a sense of humor. Things will not always go the way that we imagined. For instance, I was very impressed with one candidate, in particular, who applied to join us. When the candidate was asked a question about literature, she sat up and her energy came forward. She talked eloquently about the importance of Chinese identity, the need for students to understand Chinese literature, and the questions that she would ask the students about the books, characters and the way the literature was written. You could see that she had all of the academic qualities. But she also had a love of literature and love for the students, and she thought about how she, as a teacher of literature, can really help form kids as they begin to understand who they can be and what the possibilities are for their lives. She also was thinking about how her students might enter into larger questions about what China is becoming. It was a lovely and exciting moment in an interview because you could see a real sparkle. The teachers that have all of the academic pieces plus the sparkle: This is what we want. 28 The Keystone Magazine