Stanford Graduate School of Education: Teaching, research, engagement, impact
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Stanford Graduate School of Education: Teaching, research, engagement, impact

Every time I watch a fine teacher teach, I
feel the same way I do when I watch a great violinist perform. I can’t understand how
in the world they pull that off. Teaching is a highly complex and very engaging
job and there’s never really a moment when you’re teaching when you’re not really, sort
of, really trying to manage 10 complex tasks at once. That’s what good teachers do. Good teaching looks seamless but the work
underneath the surface is intense, and it’s ongoing, and it’s unending. (Subtract two, subtract two.) Learning is such a basic human need that humans
evolved to be teachers. Education is one of the great hopes for being
able to move people. To me that’s fundamentally what education’s
about. It sort of couples to every societal issue you can
think about. We live in a society where education is probably
the key to the American dream. There’s this thought that you can come here,
work hard, go to school. You see that go to school part is always in
that equation. It’s always part of it. I think of myself as a teacher first and foremost. So I’ve always felt the most important part
of any role I’ve had whether it’s provost or dean, the most important part of that role
has to have been a teacher. Coming in, I never thought I’d be in education. I was like, ‘Oh kids, that sounds terrible.’ The ways I saw adults in school settings interact
with kids was always like, “Be quiet,” trying to keep them in control. Once it clicked in that it’s not about control
but about freedom instead, they think in amazing ways when you let them. That intellectual challenge of bringing the
curriculum to the children is a set of puzzles every single day. We both do research and worry about it coming
into practice, but we also take practice and bring it into research. There are a lot of shoulders of giants that
we stand on in terms of the research we get to do today and it’s a real privilege. I think that’s been a really healthy reminder
about why I came here. Schools of education are crucial in that they
bring together the voices of the field and of research in ways that breaks down the silos
that we often see between universities and the communities that they serve. We are the world’s leading researchers in
areas of education. It is a perfect balance of fundamental research
and application. The conversations that I see between researchers
and practitioners build better research questions. And so I think we’re going to be more apt
to come up with better solutions. We’re going to know more about education as
long as we have that engagement. We have a tradition at Stanford to actually say, we want to make sure that our graduates are able to understand the community that surrounds them and that
they work to make it better. I use things every single day that I learned
at Stanford. How I think about teaching, how I think about
my planning, how I think about supporting students, how I think about working with underserved
students, I learned from Stanford. Education is the foundational platform in
which we get to renew ourselves. We can either be passive recipients of the
culture that we exist in or we can be active in trying to frame that culture. Education has this multiplier effect. So if you can create something that truly
works, it’s incredible how many people around the world will use that. The best thing we could learn was that some
of our ideas had become so ubiquitous and universal that nobody knows they came from
Stanford. They’ve become everyone’s.

About James Carlton

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