What Independent School Teachers Say About Teaching in Independent Schools

The following excerpts are responses (each from a different independent school teacher) to the query, "Why do you teach in an independent school?"

  • The professionalism: Not any of my colleagues are here just for the paycheck—they genuinely care about the quality of the school and the programs offered to the future leaders of our country. No administrator has ever told me I have to use certain books or materials. Nor have I ever been denied the right to try something new or innovative. I feel that I am respected as a professional educator who is trusted to make wise choices for my students. A supportive parent body, colleagues who cooperate and feel like family, and children who come to school eager to learn and curious about the world all combine to make teaching a most pleasant experience.

  • Independent schools are places with a sense of community for all of their members…. When all members of the community know they are valued, all the good things we want of a school will grow and flourish. 

  • I am surrounded by intelligent, hard-working and well-educated people…. I feel I can continue to grow and learn as a person and as an educator. 

  • The program is fluid and supportive of new initiatives…. Support for professional growth is a priority.

  • I enjoy the freedom to teach using one's own talents and interests…. One has power to make the school what it is…. One's colleagues are stimulating and inspiring…. I enjoy the classroom autonomy and the professional trust.

  • Independent schools offer a professional community in which ideas and creativity can flourish.

  • I feel fortunate to be able to teach in a program that matches my philosophy about how young children learn.

  • This independent school took a risk to give me a chance to show my talents: I love it!

  • Teachers in independent schools regard accomplishment and recognition as their reward…. Independent schools form a "right" triangle of the child, the teacher, and the parents: communication, strong values, and a clear mission help that right triangle work.

  • In the small classes of independent schools, I have enjoyed knowing my students as individuals and utilizing various methods of teaching to achieve success.

  • Independent school life (teaching, advising, coaching, getting to know the families, being a part of a real community) is appealing to certain souls, especially those of us who regard teaching as a calling rather than a job. If this sounds idealistic, I'm young.

  • There are two primary reasons for being attracted to teaching in an independent school: highly motivated students; students who were "reared right," as they say in the South.

  • I teach in independent schools because my students enjoy coming to school and learning. They have involved parents who are interested in their children's learning. I have flexibility, and I don't have to follow a curriculum set by "someone else."

  • Our students are motivated, and their parents are supportive. We can be selective of our students: those families who do not agree with our mission do not attend our school.

  • Most of the colleagues with whom I work and share the joy of independent school teaching celebrate the aspects of what the late British historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin famously refers to as negative liberty — the freedom to act without interference from others. Most of us relish the opportunity to work free of burdensome dictates of state department of education mandates, strict and often misguided teacher certification requirements, pat curricular designs and assessment procedures, and bureaucratic paper work…. Freedom, however, in the independent school does not mean "leave me alone and let me do my work," but rather it calls one to invite others to share that work in an environment that is grounded in trust. With freedom comes duty — a duty to move beyond the walls of individual classrooms and attend to the broad requisites of school mission.

Source:  www.nais.org · Originally published by ISACS. Reprinted with permission.