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The author of Educational Leadership's Portrait series reflects on the role of perseverance, vision, and tenacity-characteristics that extraordinary achievers have in common.
Over the past five years, I have interviewed a host of exceptional educators-some of them well-known nationally or internationally and others known only in their local area. All of these interviews were published in the Portrait Series in Educational Leadership.
Many readers recognized Ted Sizer, the late Madeline Hunter, Seymour Papert, and Ernest Boyer; some knew of Dennie Palmer Wolf and James Gray; few knew Audre Allison, Florence Mondry, and Sig Ramler. All these people made a difference to children and teachers, and all made us fee more professional.
After conducting about 10 interviews, I began to notice that my subjects had more in common than extraordinary achievement. They shared patterns that constituted a leitmotif in their careers. These patterns include five characteristics: vision, tenacity, recursiveness, time commitment, and dedication to career.
Most of these educators early on in their careers knew on a deep level that they would work to bring their personal dream to fruition. Years before Jim Comer went to work as a psychiatrist at the Yale Medical School and made a very focused commitment to children and family, he had this broad vision:
While I was at the School Health, I began to think a could make a difference income kids, and I decide place in society-because to families earlier-is the Everybody comes down t
Typically, the early vision unspecific. It might evolved over a period of y slowly came into focus, o have percolated for a time and then struck with great force.
The genesis of the Coalition of Essential Schools began in the early 1980s when, as founder Ted Sizer he began to conclude the following about American students:
Most kids were intellectually flabby, including the academic hotshots-the kids with pretty good test scores. The schools were extraordinarily tolerant of sloppy and superficial thinking.
The Coalition that he founded to change such conditions has since grown from 5 to some 800 schools.
Seymour Papert's initial perception about the future of computers was more dramatic:
In 1967 I was walking on a hilltop in Cyprus, and it just sort of hit me like a thunderbolt. What in our culture has the greatest potential for making a difference? Computers.
At a time when there were no personal computers and computers had hardly touched the public schools, Papert understood that within a dec there would be a seismic shift …