Ted Sizer passed away a year ago today. Below is the email I shared with my staff when I heard the news, which I thought I would post in his memory today.
Ted Sizer is solely responsible for me becoming a teacher. If I hadn’t read Horace’s Compromise my sophomore year of college, I would not have ended up in a classroom. This book shows what schools should not be – and made me realize there was an alternative to the mediocrity I had known throughout my public school education. Horace’s School, which I read the following year, showed me for the first time just how powerful schools and teachers could be in terms of not only effecting individual students’ lives, but in re-imagining the human relationship of teaching in order to help build a better society. When I started my career, I sought to make my classroom a smaller version of Horace’s School, and was thrilled to latter find in Bronx Lab a school striving for many of the same goals.
I had the blessing and pleasure of getting to meet Ted and his wife, Nancy, on a couple of occasions. The great optimism and hope of his writing was matched by the warmth and generosity of his personality. What struck me most about him though, was his complete confidence that people and schools could change. This was a man who had been fighting against the grain for 40 years. But despite all the failures he had encountered, all the students he saw suffering in poor and mediocre schools, all the resistance to change that he encountered, he seemed to know that change would come, and he put his faith in a new generation of educators to carry that change out. I can only hope that he was right, and that we are worthy of his trust.