2016 Blackboard Award Honoree: Noah Gordon

Noah Gordon accepts his Blackboard Award; photo by Karen Haberberg

Editor’s note: To read profiles of all 2016 Blackboard Awards honorees, click HERE!

Noah Gordon
High School, English Language Arts
Special Music School at Kaufman Music Center

Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges you’ve experienced as a teacher.

I enjoy tiny classroom moments: An especially powerful discussion around our Harkness table, a shared reading of a student-authored text, a room abuzz with meditative writing, a gift to our class community from an especially generous student. But above all, my greatest joy is being in the presence of my students’ thinking. Imaginative and creative problem-solving happens daily at Special Music School, which makes being a member of the community such a rewarding experience. I think the greatest challenge that I face as a teacher now is the current culture of instruction… The pressure to constantly assess, measure, and evaluate students leaves little time or curricular space to cultivate the kinds of dispositions that I believe are essential for a rich and rewarding intellectual life: Wonder, open-mindedness, playfulness, responsibility, and wholeheartedness.

Please share a special project or achievement that you are particularly proud of from this year.

This year, with the help of a student-teacher and a small collection of high schoolers, I developed a radio station as an elective course at SMS. I’m particularly proud of the class because I know almost nothing about radio, recording, or production. I was inspired by Stuart Firestein’s book Ignorance: How It Drives Science. Instead of taking a position of expertise, I decided to celebrate my ignorance in radio and present it as a learning opportunity to students.

Noah Gordon Think lores__gordon
Noah Gordon

Over the course of your career, what do you consider your greatest accomplishments?

My greatest accomplishment has been helping to found the high school at Special Music School. Three years ago, we (the students, faculty, and administrators) created a learning environment to support intellectual, social, and emotional health… I feel fortunate to help build a space that values open-mindedness and wholeheartedness.

What keeps you motivated and committed to being a dedicated and hard-working educator?

I’m driven as an educator because I’m an insatiably curious learner. In fact, I’m much more interested in learning than in teaching. To me, learning comes from participating in a community; it’s a characteristic of making a meaningful contribution to an ongoing discussion. For my students, this means I’m committed to creating an environment where everyone can take on multiple roles: Listener, advocate, trickster, philosopher, contrarian, friend.