In late June I had the good fortune to be among the attendees at a memorial event for Ted Sizer, organized and attended by many of the people he taught and worked with and otherwise touched during his decade at Brown University. Held at the campus, “A CONVERSATION AMONG FRIENDS” welcomed more than one-hundred people to the campus center.
Special guests were the new Brown MAT’s, who had the chance to explore Ted’s work with three older generations of “Ted heads”. As part of the event, they received copies of Ted’s magnum opus, Horace’s Compromise, which I was asked to recall for the Coalition of Essential Schools “Year of Demonstration”.
Speaker Jed Lippard, touched a nerve with many when he recalled a recent meeting of young educators, almost none of whom had read Sizer’s works. For that reason alone, it was great to have the face to face time with the MAT’s, along with back-up from seasoned Essential schoolers, many of us who considered Ted to be the Dewey of our time. The eagerness and intellect of those current graduate students was super refreshing to me. They identified with the book and they brought broad and astute perspectives on issues from Compromise - teachers’ beliefs and choices, collaborative practice, believing in young people and helping them to use their minds well. An additional theme was their recognition of the plight of educators on the front lines being asked to implement unhelpful policies and practices. It reminded me of Ted’s exhortation to policy makers – “provide the resources needed and get out of the way”, advice that remains unheeded. That these young professionals, all of them striving to know and learn more, could already see the need for those closest to the classroom to lead the changes needed was a near-perfect affirmation of Ted’s Common Principles. And right here on the campus where Ted made so much happen.
Another striking reminder to me was the reach and gravitas of the many CES veterans who attended, friendly faces who had led a range of exciting, progressive efforts to the places they had chosen to dig in -school and district leaders, college professors and teacher developers, writers, school coaches, teachers from across the K-12 spectrum. The degree to which Ted‘s ideas and convening magic had propelled so many of our careers is astounding, as were the many shared memories of what made Ted special –his gentle, courtly ways that belied his passion, his stunning grasp of the ecology of the schoolhouse (equaled only to me by Seymour Sarason), his clarity of thought and expression, the special attention he always gave to the youngest in the room, be they the children of staff, high-schoolers or new teachers.
In closing, there was much talk of a fabulous Fall Forum in Providence this coming December. There was also talk that fund-raising and the cooperation of the Brown Development Office will make “A CONVERSATION AMONG FRIENDS” an annual spring event and that wider notice and participation will follow. Bigger and better sounds great to me, although the size and enthusiasm of those in attendance this year was already a remarkable and uplifting way to enter the summer. See you there next June! And thanks again, Ted.
Education Resources Consortium