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Saturday / September 23

Walking the Talk: Gifted Teacher

With the Thanksgiving holiday just behind us, I thought I would spend this blog expressing my gratitude. If I included all the things I am grateful for both personally and professionally, this would be the longest blog of the series. So I will restrict myself to just what I am professionally grateful for this year and try to draw out the implications of that gratitude for teaching.

Russ Quaglia and the Quaglia Institute for School Voice and Aspirations (QISVA)—with whom I started this year—continue to be an inspiration to my professional life. The nearly fifteen years I spent working with an amazing team of educators remain a source of fuel, as well as a road map, for being the best teacher I possibly can. Working each day to consider the presence of the 8 Conditions in my classroom, as well as to keep each student’s aspiration squarely in front of me as the goal of our learning, is something I strive for every day. I must admit it is not easy. The distractions of daily school life, the relentless demands of the curriculum, and the students’ variable ability to focus all bend classroom practice toward traditional teacher-centered approaches. But my former colleagues remain constant companions encouraging me to consider the self-worth of each student even as I attend to the value of what we are learning; to find engagement, creativity, and adventure in each pedagogical decision, even as I attend to the content I am entrusted to engage with; and to expect and support students to actively, responsibly, and confidently lead the learning, even as I attend to my own responsibilities to share and assess what they need to be learning.

I am also grateful to Corwin! Both for providing this opportunity to blog (cool new website!) and for the recent publication of Aspire High: Imagining Tomorrow’s School Today. Writing Aspire High with Russ, Kris Fox, and Gavin Dykes as a book worthy of being a “Corwin Book”—at once research based and a call for action—was a profound learning experience. As both a teacher and a teacher-leader, I am grateful for the opportunity to write and even more grateful for the opportunity to implement what we wrote! Working (and not just writing) towards the school needed for the world we live in and not the school we have inherited is both perilous and rewarding. It is no exaggeration to say that I feel all my experiences, including my writing for Corwin, have brought me to a place where I know just enough to help one school change just enough to become tomorrow’s school today.

I am grateful for my students—all of them. Please do not mistake that as mere sentiment. There have been students that have challenged me, that have been disruptive, that have forced me out of commitments I had made and required me to apologize for breaking those commitments. There have also been students who have been models, leaders, inspirations. I have had to relearn, rethink, and renew my efforts all thanks to my students. While I returned to teaching in the full expectation that I would be first and foremost a learner again, the way this has played out in reality has far exceeded expectations. Every day brings new challenges and new lessons. And as I love learning, I am thankful for those who are teaching me these lessons—my students.

The expression “gifted teacher” typically refers to someone who has the innate talent, instincts, and intuition to effectively communicate ideas to other people. But if I may twist the phrase, it can also mean someone who has been gifted with the opportunity to do one of the most meaningful and humbling jobs in the world—shape the thinking, the habits, and, perhaps, the life choices of other persons. I am grateful for the previous experiences with QISVA and Corwin that have provided me with insights into education that I try to live up to every day. Thank you one and all.

School Voice Chronicles

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Michael J. Corso, Ph.D., former high school teacher turned adjunct professor of education and administrator, has been the Chief Academic Officer for the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations (QISA) for 15 years. In that role he provided professional development and training in Aspirations and Student Voice theories and frameworks to thousands of educators and students in hundreds of schools. Out of those experiences he co-authored numerous books and articles on the subject of School Voice, including Student Voice: The Instrument of Change (Corwin 2014) and Aspire High: Imagining Tomorrow’s School Today (Corwin 2016). While he is still connected to QISA as a special consultant, he has decided to return full-time to the high school classroom. While many in education move from practice to theory or policy, Mickey has chosen to move from consulting back to the classroom. This blog is a weekly window into his journey of trying to practice himself what he has preached to others for over two decades as a researcher and PD provider.

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