How to discover the “soul” of teaching
In this often humorous, sometimes frustrated, always hope-filled collection of short “encouragements,” John Horan — founder and long-time teacher and leader of the North Lawndale College Prep Charter High School on the west side of Chicago — offers stories, insights, and prayers to teachers, administrators, and support staff. He encourages them to ask themselves three questions:
- What do you see when you look at your students and their parents?
- What best awakens you to love?
- What are the costs of caring?
Love is the lesson plan.
We teachers and principals know that all growth happens in the context of deep relationships between young people and mindful adults. We can only go deep with young people if we stay deep. Staying deep is, at its core, a spiritual enterprise. Although our schools may be public or charter, parochial or private, in home or in a big or tiny building, they are all spiritual places. The soul of teaching belongs to no one faith, denomination, or philosophy, but it encompasses all of them.
In these days of chasing standardized test metrics, common cores, budget crises, pandemics, and protests, it is easy to forget that schools are the setting for the life of the spirit. Each school has a soul, and so does each teacher, principal, student, parent, and support staff.
Great schools are acts of love. They come from the deepest core of interactions between students and teachers. But we teachers and principals and support staff can run dry. Our lights can be extinguished.
The reflections in this little book are reminder notes about how we educators abide in a love that is a mighty spring and how we give and receive that love every day.
About the author and illustrator
John Horan has worked with young people for 40 years. He is one of the founders of North Lawndale College Prep, having served as a teacher, Dean of Students, and President. He previously served as the Director of the I HAVE A DREAM Foundation and the Catholic Youth Office in Chicago.
Mary Herbin-Horan is an artist, musician, and occupational therapist (OT). She served as Director of Music at St. Gertrude Church in Chicago for 12 years. She has been an OT for 40 years and specializes in the rehabilitation of hand injuries.
John and Mary met in a church choir and have been married for 30 years. They still make beautiful music together.