Alexandr Naumovich Tubelsky (1940 - 2007)
For twenty-two years Tubelsky was head of School Number 734 in Moscow, which became known as the School of Self-Determination. What follows is an edited translation of the obituary notice that was posted on the school's website.
Friends . . .
A man has departed this life, the man who founded our school. A man who loved children more than anything else in the world. A man whose life and heart were devoted to children.
In 1985 he came to School Number 734, became its head teacher and guided it for twenty-two years.
This was the time when perestroika was beginning, and with the arrival of Alexander Naumovich Tubelsky our school became a centre of educational reform.
His innovative ideas were taken up by the teachers and children, we made this difficult journey together, and in 1987 our school became The School of Self-Determination, designed by Tubelsky.
Alexander Naumovich became the captain of a new vessel of Russian education. All the supporters of the humanitarian, democratic approach to education began to unite around him.
Teaching was his “raison d'être.” Alexander Naumovich's ideas had an enthusiastic reception, not only in the school but also in the whole of Russia and in many countries world-wide. He was ahead of his time, and his many plans, which twenty years ago few would have believed possible to realise, have become a reality in the world of today.
All these years Tubelsky was the main driving force for the creation of the democratic way of life in our school. Thanks to him the adults' and children's attitudes have always been marked by mutual understanding, respect and tolerance.
He himself was free of dogma and received ideas, and he was never afraid to defend what he held dear, and taught us to be free, children and adults alike.
When he founded our school everyone was able to express their own opinions, defend their own points of view and argue without hesitation, fearing nothing.
He rightly used the words of the first head of the Pushkin Malinovsky Grammar School as if they were his own: “In my school the most important thing is that there is no toadying!”
Alexander Naumovich was the soul of all school activities; without his lively participation nothing would have been achieved.
He was able to see, to discern and to support everything that was new, interesting and alive.
He had a unique ability to delight in his students and his colleagues. He was a head who was able to inspire, uplift and infect everyone with his energy – teachers, children, parents – and create an atmosphere of co-operation and co-creativity.
How he loved his school! How he loved to meet everyone downstairs every morning! He always radiated an energy of love and happiness.
What other head could go out on the first of September in a school cap, or dressed as Karlson [a Robinson Crusoe figure], a pirate or a pop-star!
But every year, on the first day of Lyceum week [three days of role-play, when the school returns to the beginning of the nineteenth century], he put on the frock-coat that was always hanging in his cupboard, and from that moment on the whole school took on an atmosphere of fellowship, where everything was done “for the common good.”
Alexander Naumovich's ideas took root in us, became a part of life, the foundation of our perception of the world and the framework for our relationships.
We will remember Tubelsky as he always was among us – bright, wise, life-affirming.
Pupils, teachers, graduates, parents and friends of the School of Self-Determination.
Alexander Naumovich Tubelsky was born in Moscow on 2 nd October, 1940. He studied history at the Moscow Institute of Education and qualified with the top grade. After three years in the army he worked as a leader of the pioneers, organised out of class activities, taught history and took an MA in education. He then worked for three years in adult education.
In 1985 the teaching body of School Number 734 in Moscow invited him to take up the post of headmaster.
He devised a new educational programme, known as “self-determination”. The school won frequent awards and Tubelsky was elected President of the Association of Innovative Schools and also President of the Association of Democratic Schools in Russia.
In 1992 the school became a training centre for student-teachers and Tubelsky, right up until the end of his life, was a professor in the education department at Moscow University. He wrote or edited sixteen books and over a hundred and fifty articles.
Among other awards, Tubelsky won the K. D. Ushinsky medal and the Moscow 850th anniversary memorial medal.