Delegations from more than 450 communities have visited us and they all want to know the same thing: What’s the “secret sauce” we use to achieve great outcomes – the magic curriculum, the new technology?
The real secret to success, I found, is something that makes all of our brilliant staffers, state-of-the-art technology and textbooks come alive. It’s the foundation of our business plan and it’s what keeps our pipeline of services together. The secret ingredient is love.
It may sound corny, but it’s true. We love our kids, and not just some of kids. We don’t just love the ones that come to school, on time and in uniform, the ones that get straight A’s. I‘m talking about the ones who are sometimes disrespectful to my teachers or use poor judgment.
We tackle all the problems they are wrestling with — whether it’s algebra or asthma, punctuation or pessimism. And since we love our kids, how can we stop working with them until we know they are on solid ground as self-sufficient adults? So we stay with them through college.
Albert Einstein once said, “Love is a better teacher than duty.” Taking Einstein’s observation, you can distill our complicated organization to a basic formula: L + R = S. Love plus Resources equals Success. Now don’t get me wrong. Having a great curriculum and sophisticated teaching tools are absolutely important. But children need to be in the right frame of mind to take advantage of them. A SmartBoard is a great interactive classroom tool, but if the student is nearsighted and doesn’t have glasses, or is in an emergency room due to an asthma attack, the SmartBoard is of pretty limited use. Similarly, if a child is not there mentally due to trauma at home, the technology also cannot fulfill its potential.
The fundamental question as our country goes forward isn’t whether we should use a traditional public school model or a charter school or whether one agency should do it all or whether we should be a collaboration of agencies. The big question is can we love all these kids?
I think we can.
That’s the radical hope, born out of love, which leaders need to have in order to get this work done.