In last week’s Wellness Wednesday we suggested that a revolution is needed in our schools today. The fundamental power behind this revolution is the belief in possibilities. It is a revolution rooted deeply in the American spirit, a spirit that wisely holds on to what needs to be preserved, courageously ventures across a challenging frontier, depends on the companionship and hospitality of fellow travelers, and is drawn forward by the dream of a prosperous new land.

Americans have always believed in possibilities. That belief fueled the creative spirit of inventors and the adventuresome spirit of pioneers who journeyed across the Continental Divide in covered wagons and the galaxies in spaceships. It fueled the spirit of sacrifice by men and women in our armed forces and countless people of all races who tirelessly worked and died for civil rights. This belief in possibilities is at the core of who we are as a people. It is our passion. It is what we live for today and is our legacy for future generations.

Today in our neighborhood and in your neighborhood, children are on their way to school. They go to school because parents believe in possibilities. They hope for what is best for their children. Our work at Top 20 Training seeks to partner the sacred vocation of teachers with the deep desire of parents and the needs of children to create new possibilities.

When I look back at my years of being in school, it is clear that teachers had one primary purpose. Their job was to transfer content into my head. Learning meant having information and information came from books, encyclopedias, and teachers. Clearly, the role of a teacher was to be a transmitter of information.

Consequently, the night before I taught my first class of American literature to high school juniors in 1970, my sole concern was to prepare myself by getting enough content into my head so I could dump that into my students’ heads. Within seconds of the bell ringing to begin class the next morning, my students sat quietly knowing what to expect. Being faithful to the task of teaching, I unscrewed their heads and poured in the information that had been poured into my head.

My students sat quietly and wrote what I was saying in their notebooks. I had good students, and I was a good teacher. I continued this practice of passing on knowledge to my students for many years.

One day I noticed that a student didn’t have his notebook. After a few weeks that number grew. Some students even forgot to bring their books to class. Their test scores declined. They became more and more resistant to my pouring information into their heads. They actually began talking to each other during class rather than listening to me. Grades got worse and a few students even failed my class. I no longer had good students.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, thus began the revolution in American education. My students had begun to pour tea into Boston harbor: No education without participation. My students had a good teacher, but what they needed was a Top 20 teacher. Next week we’ll identify what being a Top 20 teacher is all about.

Reflection: Recall what being a student in school looked like and felt like for you. How would you describe the experience of being a student?

From Willow, Kevin, and Tom…who joined the student revolution.

Paul Bernabei
Top 20 Training