Professor Dennis Shirley teaches tomorrow’s education leaders to embrace change and learn from the world at large
I care a lot about the broader human condition. I care about social justice. For myself, as an educator, if my students’ antennas are open and active, teaching and the sharing of knowledge should be done in the form that invites conversation.
I’m interested in large-scale change, how we improve schools by the classroom, grade level, school or district. I am equally interested in working on a broader scale, lifting whole systems as they strive for wide-reaching improvements.
My goal as an educator is to create change, change that can be sustained and spread, ideas that can be replicated or tried and refined in a variety of learning environments. The reason that I am so fond of the Global Perspectives program is the way that it illuminates how an educational network forms, acutely aware of the fact that teaching practices vary enormously from one country to another.
We’re more embedded in each other’s worlds than ever, and certain existential threats for humanity, like climate change, know no borders. I would say that the impetus for the Global Perspectives program is to try and pull the other indicators from around the world for those who want to learn from each other, individuals who want to understand what happens when things don’t go so well on a large scale. The program is designed for those who have a healthy curiosity about issues rooted in their own communities.
I hope that the coronavirus will lead us to think about arresting these tendencies that make education boring, predictable, and scripted. As a result of the pandemic, I hope we, as educators, can help kids understand that they’ve been bestowed with these God-given talents that they can foster. Education should energize our youth, help them find themselves, realize themselves, and set goals.
“ Education should energize our youth, help them find themselves, realize themselves, and set goals.”
At the Lynch School, our education style is distinctive: we’re not afraid to engage with norms or with values. We cherish small-group discussion and facilitate it. What we teach is research-based, but we also have core values that we espouse. Students will not be on the receiving end of other people’s research, but will instead study with top scholars who drive the research agenda themselves, learning in a collaborative, hands-on environment that is hard to come by. Since research does impact practice, it’s really good to understand the research so that when teachers are in schools and people are saying things like “Research says…” they have the analytical chops to find out if the research really does say that, or if it suggests something else entirely. The Lynch School will prepare graduates to be critical, independent thinkers with strong norms, and people who love education, pursue educating others as an adventure, and care about the rising generation and the future of our planet.
I’d like all of my students to view education as a sacred obligation. I’d like them to see teaching as an opportunity to grow in a way that few other professions allow while contributing to a better world and having a ton of fun in the process. This process can come with a lot of joy and a lot of surprises.
“My goal as an educator is to create change, change that can be sustained and spread, ideas that can be replicated or tried and refined in a variety of learning environments.”