“Do you get it?”

There’s an amazing buzz of energy in the room that’s hard to describe. The teacher, bouncing on her feet, moving around the room, smiling along with the kids, has the mood buoyant and the rigor high. Students, divided into groups of four, face each other and talk about the questions in front of them, pursuing answers (and “answers” is purposefully plural) as their teacher moves from quad to quad, looking students in the eyes and asking questions that prompt the kids to reflect on what they’re doing and justify their solutions.

It could be any subject: the papers the kids bending over holding US maps, Shakespearean sonnets, or sheep hearts ready for dissection. Today, as I sit inspired in this dynamic classroom, it’s math, with kids talking percentages, cross-products, and different approaches for figuring out the answers to questions that sound like they could come out of their own lives.

I was there for a short visit, but found myself compelled to stick around for a while, drawing inspiration from what ultimately is the most powerful force in education: a caring teacher actively engaged with curious students.

In an educational landscape increasingly dotted with outposts of technology (Twitter Chats, Chromebooks, and Google Classrooms) the single act of a teacher leaning over a desk and looking a student in the eyes is unmatched. Add to that moment a classroom history of caring, high expectations, and shared experiences, and the result is electrifying.

As I watched this gifted math teacher talk with her kids, not at her kids, not around her kids, but with her kids about math, I was reminded of what makes me proudest about being an educator.

Teachers who are passionate about who they’re teaching and what they’re teaching are the single most powerful force in all of education. These teachers build relationships, inspire curiosity, and make a profound difference in the lives of the kids they work with. As a principal, I’m blessed with the opportunity to see teachers like this work with students every day.

I get to see the face to face interactions between students and instructors that have been the hallmark of learning since before Socrates and will be long after we’ve won the world back from the robots.

I see the sparkle in the teachers’ eyes, the light in the eyes of the students, and the face of learning as it smiles with understanding.

I love the opportunities that technology has brought to teaching and learning, and many of the changes we’ve seen in schools and education, but at the end of the day it’s that pure moment of connection that still inspires me most, when the teacher asks “do you get it” and the student smiles and says “yes.”

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