Preparing Boys for Life.
Fords in Four: Jonathan Gold '02
The Haverford School

In Fords in Four, we ask an alumnus four questions; he shares insights and stories. In this blog post, history teacher Jonathan Gold '02 shares what he learned from his favorite teachers here, as well as the importance of learning and teaching history in the current political climate. 

Which faculty member at Haverford really influenced you? 


I think because I am a teacher, and I’ve always loved school, I have especially vivid memories of teachers. I remember Mr. Heed’s intensity and desire to get at the truth, Mr. Hallowell’s tweedy brilliance and the look on his face when we shared in his awe at what literature can do, Ms. Adkins’ belief in her students, Mr. Bergh’s community-mindedness, Mrs. Heed’s concern for the whole child, Coach Nostrant’s intensity. The Heeds loom large in imbuing in me a deep appreciation for the past and for the study of history as an ongoing, iterative conversation with real stakes for our identities and future as individuals and as a country.

One story that sticks out: Mr. Heed didn’t choose me for the History Department Prize my junior year, and I was bummed. The day after the awards assembly he found me and presented me with a book, one he had purchased himself. He said he was sorry I hadn’t won but that he knew, as his inscription indicated, that I understood that “the work is enough.” Not only had he acknowledged me in such a unique way, but he recognized my love of learning and hard work, which meant more than any award. I have the book in my classroom now, and every few years a kid picks it up and I get to tell them that story. 

What is the most exciting or rewarding part of your work as a teacher? 


The students. Middle school kids are works in progress, like all of us, but they are more keenly aware of it and, in the right conditions, are refreshingly able to grow. I love helping them discover their ability to think and write and helping them see how and why history is so important. Because I work in a three-division school, I also get to see my students go on to thrive in the Upper School. And this year, my son, Remy, is in the nursery class at Moses Brown, so I am even more invested in the school. 

I remember my Haverford teachers taking a lot of pride in the rigor and depth of our work while also seeing it as their responsibility to help us meet those expectations. I tell my students that there are two ways I could ensure their success. I could make things easy for them and then they would all find success, or I could keep setting the bar a bit higher and work with them to develop the skills, habits, and knowledge to help them reach it. I choose the latter, and that is something I learned at Haverford.

What lessons or skills do you hope students leave your classroom with? 

I remember my Haverford teachers taking a lot of pride in the rigor and depth of our work while also seeing it as their responsibility to help us meet those expectations. I tell my students that there are two ways I could ensure their success. I could make things easy for them and then they would all find success, or I could keep setting the bar a bit higher and work with them to develop the skills, habits, and knowledge to help them reach it. I choose the latter, and that is something I learned at Haverford.

The current political climate has really highlighted the importance of good history education and effective liberal arts education more broadly, so I feel especially called to this work in this historical moment. Even though I teach history, I really see myself as a thinking teacher. Historians have a way of thinking about the world that, to me, is the right set of habits of mind for effective citizenship and community membership. Historians are savvy interpreters; they pay attention to perspective, power, and bias, and they understand the critical gap between what actually happens and how events are remembered, memorialized, and manipulated to further certain narratives. My class is really English class masquerading as history: we read and write a ton, practice textual analysis, and there is a lot of emphasis on clarity, depth, and logic. And, of course, we have a lot of fun debating and arguing about which events matter, whose stories are left out, and, most importantly, the fundamental question of democratic society, how we should live together. 

Being in an all-male institution carries with it a duty to reflect on what that means and to work to create a more positive image. I learned a lot about being a man at Haverford, and I’m glad to know that these conversations continue. 

How do you think current students can make the most of their Haverford education?

Your teachers want nothing more than to help you, and it’s the best students who seek support from their teachers. In my time at Haverford, I took every humanities course I could. Along with some like-minded peers, I founded the poetry club and did anything I could to spend time with words – The Index, Pegasus, debate – anything I could do to be writing and reading and engaging with ideas. 

I wish I had pushed myself to get beyond the gates and learn more about the broader Philadelphia community, so I’d encourage students to take advantage of that. I also think students should try to learn more about the history of independent schools and reflect more critically on what it means for them to attend such a prestigious, storied institution. As more and more stories emerge about the problems endemic to some elite institutions, it’s incumbent upon the people in them today to reflect and chart a better course. Being in an all-male institution carries with it a duty to reflect on what that means and to work to create a more positive image. I learned a lot about being a man at Haverford, and I’m glad to know that these conversations continue. 

Jon Gold ’02 lives in Seekonk, Mass. with his wife Julia, who is the chief of the Office of Sustainability and Innovation for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation; their two sons, Neko (6) and Remy (3); and their elderly pug, Tofu. Neko has significant special needs and is profoundly deaf, so Jon and his family use American Sign Language and have immersed themselves in the special needs world. Since 2006, Jon has been teaching Middle School history at Moses Brown School, an independent Quaker school in Providence. In addition to teaching, Jon has coached Middle School boys' lacrosse and girls' soccer and helps direct the school's Expert Thinking program in innovative pedagogy. He writes for Teaching Tolerance, the education wing of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and his piece, “Teaching in the Post-Truth Era” was featured in the Huffington Post. Jon also serves on the editorial board of Klingbrief, a monthly professional development digest from the Klingenstein Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. has been involved in environmental causes in his local community, including a long stint on the board at Southside Community Land Trust, an urban agriculture nonprofit. After graduating from The Haverford School in 2002, he earned a B.A. in religious studies from Brown University and an M.A. in school leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University. 

Recent Blog Posts