The following messages from Ed Kaufman, Merriam's principal, are also included in the monthly Merriam Newsletter.
My philosophy of education is based upon a deep appreciation for children: for the curiosity they exhibit in the world around them, for their resilience and persistence in the face of tough personal and academic situations, for their wonderful humor that they are so ready to share at any moment, for the ways they are able and willing to give to one another and to their community, and for countless other reasons. My experiences teaching most of the grades from kindergarten through junior high and from working as a counselor have permitted me to develop this appreciation.
Children are clearly at the center of my educational philosophy – for it is the children who are the focus of the work we do. But how do we as educators make the greatest difference in the lives of these precious students? For me the answer lies in how we develop one primary construct: the learning community.
The learning community that we create for students is at the core of a vital institution; when children are in an environment where they feel safe, comfortable, and invited to learn, amazing things happen. It is no small task to create this sort of community.
It requires clear and open communication – which builds trust. It requires the involvement of all members of the community – so that everyone feels a part of the process. It requires keeping the best from the past but being open to change in the future. It requires compassion, enthusiasm, knowledge, creativity, and patience on the part of the teachers and administrators – who model these qualities for the kids. It requires a commitment to working effectively in groups, and demonstrating that teamwork involves working through problems when they occur. It requires a culture where making mistakes is acceptable, so that students can learn to feel encouraged to take risks in their learning. It requires a climate of respect, where every individual is a valued member of the school culture. It requires a commitment to seeing all aspects of children, including the social, emotional, cognitive, physical, and creative sides of each individual. It requires the notions of balance and rejuvenation – that children need to work hard but also must recharge and maintain balance in their lives for optimum energy. And it also requires opportunities for shared enjoyment; when learning is fun it is contagious!
It is a lofty goal to strive to create this kind of environment for students, but why not aim high? If we put structures, strategies, and practices into place that support this sort of environment, then we create an opportunity for the individuals and the community to flourish!