Saint Ignatius High School

The Work in Progress

Assistant Principal for Faculty Formation shares a story from 40-year-veteran of the History Department Mr. Michael Howard. In it, he offers one of the timeless truths of teachers at Saint Ignatius: They are continually honing their craft.

I had the good fortune to be seated with Mike Howard of the History Department at a recent in-service.

Mike is a wonderful teacher who tells great stories. So, hoping to hear one, I asked him about teaching all freshmen (this is a relatively new assignment for him). I expected him to tell me about how unrelenting freshmen can be—the now retired Fr. Ober once, famously, described teaching them as “getting pecked to death by ducks” (which certainly captures the paradoxical earnestness and self-absorption of 14 year olds!). But, as I admit often happens, Mike surprised me.

He lifted his chin and placed both of his hands on the table: “Let me tell you,” he began. “I think I am getting that course closer to where I want it. But, there’s more to do, and I am interested in finding out just where it’s going.” I confess to a pause here (maybe he was kidding me?). He leaned toward me. Admiring the challenge in his voice, I smiled, inspired by the notion that a 49 year veteran of the classroom would still be tinkering. “Right!” I responded. “Teaching is always a work in progress.”

Mike’s comment illuminates important ideas: Ours is a craft that relies on our understanding the students in front of us. That means we must constantly adjust, having to make sense of what students know and what they need to know. Teaching is, therefore, a dynamic process: The master teacher is not ever really done with mastery.

May I still be working, 50 years in, to make lessons better!

by Tom Beach, Assistant Principal for Faculty Formation