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Becoming a Better Teacher: Sanderson Doughty, HDP'12

Sandy DoughtyFor Sanderson Doughty, it is all about the children. And he left Los Angeles and came to the Ed School with one goal in mind: To become a better teacher for the kids.

“For seven years, children have been my most treasured teachers,” Doughty says. “I came to HGSE to find new ways of interpreting and synthesizing their lessons and to become a better teacher myself.”

This is a goal that both the faculty and classmates in the Human Development and Psychology Program (HDP) feel Doughty has come a long way toward achieving in his year in Cambridge.

“Sandy is a true educator,” says Lecturer Richard Weissbourd, director of HDP. “He is intensely curious in and out of class and always has insightful and compassionate observations on topics ranging from autism to experiential learning. Students really appreciated his wisdom and clarity. His leadership and positive spirit have made him a great pleasure to have in the program this year.”

Upon learning that he had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for HDP, Doughty answered some questions about his time at the Ed School and beyond.

What are your post-HGSE plans? I spend every summer in Los Angeles with kids at camp. We explore nature, build forts in the desert, sing silly songs, and build meaningful and lasting relationships with the world and each other. Camp is where I go to learn about how children think, play, and interact spontaneously. As one of the camp’s directors, I get to help college and high school students learn about the world of children and make the most of their efforts and passion.

During the year I work for an outdoor afterschool program where we play games with kids who have a hard time in school and at home. I have learned so much there and hope to continue building our understanding of children and our ways of helping them.

Unfortunately, play and exploration are typically considered a leisure activity or are thought of as separate from the central aims of education. I regard these as essential to healthy cognitive and emotional development and I dream of finding ways to help more children play, explore, and think critically about their world by engaging it directly.

What will you change in education and why? American children spend most of their time sitting in chairs and much of their day interacting with screens and other manufactured representations of reality; a growing number of American kindergartens are eliminating recess and child-centered play. I hope to protect and expand ways for children to uncover the world through exploration and to find ways for children to become holistically engaged in their learning, especially in natural, social, and meaningful learning environments.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? This year, I have learned that the world is fantastically big and enigmatic, that teachers come in all forms, at all times, and from all directions, and that dissent does not always mean disloyalty, but is often a sign of care and courage, and a tireless source of innovation and goodness.

If you could transport one person/place/thing from HGSE to your next destination, what would it be? If I could transport one place to my next destination, it would be the telescopes on the top floor of the science center, but I might rather prefer to transport myself to the many wonderful places my classmates will be going next year to visit them!

What children’s book will you be carrying at Commencement? My mother read many wonderful books to me as a child, my favorite of which was Ferdinand the Bull. I love Ferdinand for sticking up for himself, for rejecting violence and convention, for standing apart from the angry crowd, and for finding peace among the flowers under his cork tree.

For the full list of recipients, visit