Saturday, July 28, 2007

Why boarding schools? Immersion.

Immersion II
Originally uploaded by sharply_done
Yesterday, Mr. B-G asked, "Why is it that you only want to teach at an independent boarding school?"

This would be the question of the hour.

The short answer is simple: Immersion.

I want to immerse myself in a school and the life of a school. I want to be a part of the school in every waking moment.

Okay, that's a slightly flippant answer, but it is accurate as far as it goes.

First, let me be clear about the type of school I seek: independent; secondary; college-prep; small; boarding. Not just any boarding school; not just any independent school; not just any secondary school. Independent. Secondary. College-preparatory. Small. Boarding.

Yes, the selection is small; my count is fewer than a hundred schools, probably closer to 70 schools.

Why not settle for something else? There are plenty of schools that meet some, but not all, of my criteria which would likely be thrilled to have me as a faculty candidate. I think the answer is that I have a darn good gig where I am, and I'll give it up for my ideal but nothing else.

So, let me go through my list and be positive about what I seek.

Independent: My sense, based on my experience, is that in independent schools faculty members have a fair amount of freedom in the classroom and in choosing what to teach and how to teach it. With my former spouse and her husband teaching in local public schools, and my own older sons attending public schools, I am disturbed at what I see, particularly with regard to the Commonwealth's standards of learning. I know; I know; this is a bit of rash generalization. The other item is a bit more pragmatic: I'm not certified.

Secondary: Years ago I would visit schools for fun during spring vacation. I usually spent one week of the two weeks touring schools, spending a day in a school. In talking to teachers, I never found a middle school teacher who didn't love their job. I can't say the same for the elementary school teachers I met or the secondary school teachers I met. That being said, I enjoy high school students as they have, on the whole, developed intellectually so that they can actually function in a world of ideas. I like ideas.

College prep: I want to work with students who are at least considering college. In the world of independent boarding schools, there are schools which are therapeutic in nature. While I do have a degree in counseling, I don't want to work in a school which has an entire student body in need of therapeutic interventions.

Small: Small is good. Small is, I believe, better than big. For me, small means fewer than 300 students, and that would actually be on the large side. Ideally, the max would be about 220 or so. And, that's the max. In my studies of small communities and small organizations, I came across one author who noted that when an organization is less than 300, it's possible to actually know everyone. Once the organization has grown beyond that point, it's not possible to know everyone... and people fall through the cracks. I seek a small school.

Boarding: And, finally, boarding. I'm looking for the 24 by 7 experience, something that demands immersion.

For more on my beliefs about schools, see this essay.

Lastly, if I don't land a teaching job, I'll be able to concentrate on finishing my dissertation, and finishing the dissertation is a high priority. I don't want to be ABD forever.

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