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“My Dear Children”

My dear children: I rejoice to see you before me today, happy youth of a sunny and fortunate land. Bear

in mind that the wonderful things that you learn in your schools are the work of many generations,

produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labour in every country of the world. All this is put into your

hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honour it, and add to it, and one day faithfully

hand it on to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we

create in common. If you always keep that in mind you will find meaning in life and work and acquire the

right attitude towards other nations and ages. (Albert Einstein talking to a group of school children. 1934)

I entered kindergarten exactly 70 years ago this month, was a reluctant and quite cynical student

from the beginning, and also was suspicious about conventional “wisdom” while plodding through six

degrees (college, university, seminary). Often I was on the bandwagon for change and even succeeded

sometimes in helping to bring it about. So I thought that maybe this is the time to invest in some

reflection and share what I have experienced about education over those years – as a student, teacher,

professor, and administrator.

  • As research has demonstrated for at least 50 years, the most important single ingredient in a

successful school experience for a student is having a teacher who likes and encourages you.

  • The only important factors with regard to facilities are light and clean air. The rest, while nice

“value-addeds,” are relatively unimportant to learning.

  • Hard work is still the only way to accomplish great learning. No one is entitled to anything unless

they have expended the commensurate amount of work to accomplish it.

  • The best administrators are those who teach while administering, and the second best are those

who come from teaching and return to it after a time as an administrator.

  • Division between teachers and administrators has increased as administrators changed from a

public service model to a CEO/corporate model of leadership.

  • The best school principals are those who are chosen by the teachers they serve.
  • Maximum autonomy for teachers produces the best teaching.
  • Maximum parental cooperation on behalf of and encouragement of their child is critical to

success.

  • Schools aren’t social work agencies. Parents are still best equipped to handle matters of health,

discipline, value-sharing, etc. Over the past 30+ years, many parents have abdicated these

responsibilities and schools have had to fill the gaps.

Space limitations require me to stop identifying learnings at this point. I’m sure you have your own to

share. Just respond to this posting and I will share some of your memories. In the meanwhile, reread the

words of Dr. Einstein above and reflect on the truths he shares. Have a Great school year!