In this past week's Sunday Times magazine there was the article about character education which everyone is talking about, because it's great, and then there's an article by Clifford Levy about living in Russia and sending his children to a Russian school instead of a school for Americans in Russia. Even while I was reading the article, I was romanticizing the Russian schools' director, Vasilly Bogin. Levy describes his kids' first interview with Bogin like this:
At the school in Moscow, Bogin spent 45 minutes with each of the three, speaking to them in English. He gave Danya an algebra problem that was clearly too hard for her. He constructed the outline of a fish with toothpicks and asked Arden to make the fish face in the opposite direction by moving only a few pieces. He had Emmett take apart and rebuild a house made of blocks. He seemed to care about the way they thought, not what they knew.
It makes your knees weak, right?
Throughout the article, which is terrific, there are bits about how Bogin thinks about education, how Levy's kids responded, how they developed relationships. I won't retell what's in the article, although I'm tempted, I'll just say that Bogin as he's portrayed here is the kind of dynamic educator about whom people build up terrific teacher fantasies, and they should! Because the way Levy paints him, Bogin is someone who thinks forcefully and systematically about what kids do, how they think, and how they might engage with the world in many different ways. I know only very recently I complained about what happens when we only talk about great teachers, but at a moment when I'm feeling a little "meh" about where I am and what I'm doing, reading about this school was electrifying. That hard and engaging were not mutually exclusive? That no one was too worried about the fun kids might have in school and they liked going anyway? Sweet, sweet relief.