As everyone at Beacon knows already, I’m not there anymore.
After nine amazing years, I’ve left Beacon to take a new position in Philadelphia as the principal of a new small school. More details about that in a later post. This is about Beacon.
Every teacher should be lucky enough to work at a place like Beacon. I haven’t written this post even though I’ve known I was leaving for a few weeks because I really didn’t know how to sum up what I feel about the place. I’ve listened to and read about so many teachers at other schools who feel that actual teaching and learning is the last thing they are allowed to think about, and I count myself as blessed that I’ve been at a place where we are encouraged to think about that all the time.
I’ve had the chance to work with administrators who dared us to care about our craft, our kids, our colleagues and our community. The only restriction I ever found in nine years at Beacon was the sheer number of hours in the day. If you had an idea and you were willing to make it a reality, you knew that you worked for people who would support you and wanted to see that happen.
And I’ve had the chance to work with some of the most brilliant teachers that I could imagine. I’ve talked to prospective teachers about what it’s like to work at Beacon. In some schools, a good teacher becomes the MOST beloved… the MOST favored, etc… but at Beacon, that just makes you one of many. I always loved being one of many. I always loved knowing that no matter how amazing I thought a lesson plan was… how well a class went… that I could exit my classroom, walk down the hall and see something that blew it away. I have had the chance to learn from and work with the best teachers in the business. I only wish I had had more time to spend in their classrooms.
And then there are the kids… hopefully, anyone who has spent any time reading this blog knows what they mean to me. Beacon kids buy into the dream that a school can be much more than that. Beacon kids come to practice at 6:30 am and stay late for Open Houses until 9:00 at night. Beacon kids question your pedagogy if you ever try to take them out of the equation. Beacon kids ask if they can try to do a project "their way." Beacon kids eat lunch in their teachers’ offices. Beacon kids write long screeds on the Beacon forums at 2:00 am. Beacon kids come back and visit. And Beacon kids graduate from Beacon knowing that it means something to say, "I went to Beacon."
The scariest thing about leaving Beacon is feeling that I won’t be able to find a group of people who want to build a place like Beacon again. But that can’t be the reason not to do it. This is what I said at graduation this past year, and yes, I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t be back when I said it, although at the time I thought it was a small chance. So in some small way, I was challenging myself as well as the Class of 2005.
In the end, we are all lucky. We have been able to spend time in a place where these values, hard work, passion, engagement, growth, trust, perseverance, kindness and care mean something. But that doesnt happen by accident. You all we all have been lucky enough to share a vision of what a school, a community can be. And in the end, those values and that vision are as important as any fact or figure you have learned in your classes. But for those ideals to truly mean something, the responsibility now falls to you to replicate it in your lives after Beacon. You must take the values that have most allowed you to thrive at Beacon and extend them to your day-to-day lives. So many of you have expressed a concern that you wont find a place like Beacon after you leave. And this is my challenge to you — create one. Live your life that way, and others will follow. Ask Ms. Lacey, ask any member of the faculty, theyll tell you, it may not be the easiest path to take, but, in the end, its well worth it.
So that’s my challenge now, I guess. To create a place that means as much for the people who inhabit it as Beacon has meant to all of us who have walked its halls. Needless to say, the bar has been set rather high.
There are many posts to write about what is coming next… and I hope people follow this blog over to its new home at PracticalTheory.org. I’m in my planning year now, and I plan on sharing a lot of the questions I grapple with in my planning at the new site.
Thank you to the Beacon community for being my home for the past nine years. Thanks to all those who read this blog… and here’s to creating more communities that matter in our schools.