I’m not sure if you’ve heard or not, Radical Nation, but Rick DuFour — a passionate advocate for public education, a mentor and friend to many, and a proud husband, father and grandfather — passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer.
Rick used his voice to make the world a better place for our students, y’all.
To his core, he believed that the power to change schools rested in the hearts and minds of classroom teachers who were willing to study their practice together. Just think about that for a second: In an era when it felt like the entire nation was working to eviscerate our profession, Rick fought for us. Better yet, he taught us and challenged us and pushed us to accept responsibility for results.
With a seemingly endless supply of energy, Rick counseled and coached a thousand schools and districts over the last 20 years — laying out clear plans for the kinds of steps that practitioners could take if they were genuinely committed to ensuring learning for every child. He’d nudge when necessary, unsatisfied with stagnation — but he’d also leave you convinced that it WAS possible for schools to succeed, no matter the circumstance.
And Rick made everyone around him a better person.
He was one of those once-in-a-lifetime mentors who was constantly teaching, whether he knew it or not. I learned to speak from my heart after watching him testify time and again about the impact that poor educational policies had on both students and teachers. I learned that success required personal grit and determination after seeing him grind as a both writer and a speaker.
I learned that the most important part of being influential is being approachable after watching him spend hours in one-on-one conversations with teachers or principals who needed encouragement or advice; I learned that humility and curiosity are the cornerstones of successful people after watching him ask as many questions as I ever saw him answer; and I learned that true joy in life comes from having a family who loves you unconditionally after watching him invest his whole heart into Becky, his soulmate and best friend.
Let’s face it: The world lost one of the best American educators yesterday.
But we haven’t lost his spirit or his soul or his words and ideas. If we remain just as committed to the notion that together we are stronger, tomorrow’s students will benefit from the lessons that he spent a lifetime trying to teach us.
Goodbye, friend. And thank you for believing in me.
Blogger’s Note: As I wrestled with Rick’s death this morning, I decided that the best way to pay him a tribute was to send a copy of In Praise of American Educators — his seminal book tackling the myth of our failing public school system head-on — to Betsy DeVos, who seems hell bent on destroying public education. What better way to prove that the voice of my friend and mentor won’t be lost even after he’s left us.
I’d love it if you’d join me in that effort.
Can you imagine how powerful it would be if Secretary DeVos’s desk was buried in copies of a book written by a man who believed in both you and I and in the power of the work that we do every single day? And can you imagine how proud Rick would be knowing that we were willing to continue to fight for the kids sitting in our classrooms? That was his life’s mission, y’all. Let’s push it forward now and forever.
Are you in? If so, here’s some help:
- You can buy In Praise here on Amazon.
- When you are checking out, you can have your copy shipped directly to Betsy by changing the Shipping Address on your checkout page. Here’s the address for the Department of Education.
- If you want to leave a message for Besty, you can add a Gift Receipt under “Review Items and Shipping” on your checkout page. Here’s what I wrote: “In memory of Rick DuFour, one of America’s Greatest Educators. Want to improve schools? Read chapters 1-5. You’ll be inspired.”