Dr. Ted Sizer, who died on October 21, was considered by many to be the greatest educator of our time. His writing, his teaching, and all he stood for profoundly influence our work here at Inspired Teaching. He described in vivid detail the sights, sounds, and visceral experience of walking through the halls of American schools. He shed light on the way the structure of our education system forces teachers into roles that undermine their ability to teach and their students' ability to learn. But Dr. Sizer did not simply bemoan the failures of our educational system. He believed he could make it better. And he did, in a manner that respected the dignity of students and the adults who teach them.
His Essential Schools, of which there are over 150 nationwide, provide a wealth of examples of what good schools, and good teaching, look like. Like anyone with the audacity to go beyond critiquing the status quo and offer a concrete alternative, Dr. Sizer had his critics. But just as he encouraged teachers to learn from one another as 'critical friends,' Dr. Sizer learned from his critics as well as his many, many supporters and admirers.
I started Inspired Teaching fourteen years ago as a young teacher who felt a deep sense of frustration with the state of teaching, and an equally deep sense of hope in the potential of teachers to transform our profession. Ted Sizer's work had a profound influence on me as a young teacher, and continues to guide my thinking today.
In Dr. Sizer's obituary, The New York Times offers the following quote from his most famous book, Horace's Compromise, "Inspiration, hunger: these are the qualities that drive good schools. The best we educational planners can do is to create the most likely conditions for them to flourish, and then get out of their way." Those who knew Dr. Sizer best, his colleagues at the Coalition of Essential Schools and the Forum for Education and Democracy, have written beautiful tributes, which I encourage you to read.
To all our friends, and especially our Inspired Teaching staff, mentors, and teachers: I urge you to keep learning about Ted Sizer, keep reading his books, keep grappling with the powerful questions he poses. He has much more still to teach us.
Center for Inspired Teaching