“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
Henry Brooks Adams
So. This may sound wacky in today’s world, but I believe we are all teachers . Yes. Not just those with a title of ‘teacher’ who is standing up in front of our young people day in and day out <beginning at some miserable pre-dawn hour> working with them to fine tune their minds into working, thinking machines.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
William Arthur Ward
Here’s the deal. If you are an adult reading this, either accept the fact you are a teacher or … well … you are cheating someone — a someone who is waiting to be taught something or a someone who EXPECTS to be taught something.
That certain someone <let’s call them young people> is waiting to be inspired. I just wanted to clear up the despicable thought that despite what we adults say about the lazy game playing youth they are actually big hyperactive brains waiting to be inspired to do something.
We, adults, inspire or make their lives uninspired. It is our choice.
It drives me nuts the way so many people want to delegate teaching to “teachers” <educators>. Absolutely. Frickin’. nuts. And I am not just talking about ‘readin’, writin’, ‘rithmetic’ type stuff <although that can certainly be included>. Any teaching.
Because I go even more crazy because so many people ignore the fact that despite all their energy invested to avoid any type of teaching … they are actually frickin’ teaching. Youth learns not only in the classroom, but also through observation. Yup. Those little bastards <I use that term fondly> are watching everything we adults are doing and saying … including <but not exclusive of>:
How to ‘do things.’
They are observing … and well … learning. <insert a big fat grown up “uh oh” … or “oh shit” … here>
Accept the responsibility. What you do around a child teaches. Period.
If you do not accept the responsibility, trust me, kids are thinking you are being responsible. And, possibly, you are responsible for their souls <at least the development of their souls>.
China suggests teachers are “engineers of human souls.” In China they say that a good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.
Now. I am not going to ask every grown up to do the last part because that suggests giving so much of yourself to teaching you are consumed for the benefit of others <by the way, it is a good legacy to have if you actually do elect that path>. And while teaching can be like being an engineer <a science>, imparting knowledge effectively to others, especially children, is an art. A great teacher embraces <ok … accepts> the engineering aspect and teaches in ways that makes someone want to learn.
He or she inspires you to go beyond the standard lesson <Life lesson or education lesson>. They inspire students to think and strive and experiment.
It seems kind of obvious to me that you <an adult> have to believe you are a teacher because you really cannot guess how far reaching your influence will be. That’s the thing about being an adult <oops … teacher>. You never know whose life you are changing <or impacting>.
‘My teacher is in all people – but not all people are my teacher’
Oh. Just a side note so no one thinks this is just personal opinion.
A study by the University of Kansas recorded the number of words parents from 42 families in various socio-economic groups spoke to their 4-year-old children. Children from professional families heard on average 45 million words before kindergarten. Children from poor families heard on average 13 million words <educational level of achievement followed accordingly>. This is the beginning of the achievement gap and the cold calculus of poverty.
Some of those missed words not only were about real learning some were about hope <and dreams>.
“You should never tell a child their dreams are unlikely or outlandish. Few things are more humiliating, and what a tragedy it would be if they believed it.”
I am not suggesting accepting responsibility for being a teacher is easy. It is not <ask any school teacher>. The trouble often occurs when priorities become misdirected or misguided. Life gets busy for us grown ups. And then we segment responsibilities so that we can manage our own ‘to-do’ lists. One segmentation is ‘teaching is for teachers.’
Well. I imagine sometimes we forget that Life just cannot be segmented that easily. It is easy to overlook the fact that even something as random as algebra logic blurs into everyday life logic and the discussion of that logic can sometimes lead anywhere but algebra itself. The sometimes seemingly senseless shit being taught in school <only seemingly to those adults who do not use the information in every day life and have actually forgotten things like algebraic logic> creates ripples of learning outside the school. So why should it all remain at school? Isn’t the best teaching actually a combination of experience and ‘in-the-moment’ reflection? <yes>
Anyway. I can guarantee you one thing unequivocally – everything is connected with everything and it all leads to Life lessons.
All that said, the responsibility an adult holds for the well being of young people is paramount. I would suggest of greater importance than just about anything else. You may feel this, and believe this, more as a parent, but being a parent is irrelevant on this issue — it is the responsibility of all adults.
If you do not agree? Shame on you.
I understand that sometimes people lose sight of what is right and what is wrong but with children and teaching it is paramount you recognize and take steps to rectify your beliefs <and actions>. And you know what? While I am ranting about how it is a responsibility, which implies you aren’t doing anything but what you should be doing by doing it, you deserve credit when you accept the responsibility.
Teaching is difficult. Montaigne reminded us of several things about being a teacher:
In truth, all I understand as to that particular is only this, that the greatest and most important difficulty of human science is the education of children. For as in agriculture, the husbandry that is to precede planting, as also planting itself, is certain, plain, and well known; but after that which is planted comes to life, there is a great deal more to be done, more art to be used, more care to be taken, and much more difficulty to cultivate and bring it to perfection so it is with men; it is no hard matter to get children; but after they are born, then begins the trouble, solicitude, and care rightly to train, principle, and bring them up. The symptoms of their inclinations in that tender age are so obscure, and the promises so uncertain and fallacious, that it is very hard to establish any solid judgment or conjecture upon them. ’Tis the custom of pedagogues to be eternally thundering in their pupil’s ears, as they were pouring into a funnel, whilst the business of the pupil is only to repeat what the others have said: now I would have a tutor to correct this error, and, that at the very first, he should according to the capacity he has to deal with, put it to the test, permitting his pupil himself to taste things, and of himself to discern and choose them, sometimes opening the way to him, and sometimes leaving him to open it for himself; that is, I would not have him alone to invent and speak, but that he should also hear his pupil speak in turn. Let the master not only examine him about the grammatical construction of the bare words of his lesson, but about the sense and let him judge of the profit he has made, not by the testimony of his memory, but by that of his life. Let him make him put what he has learned into a hundred several forms, and accommodate it to so many several subjects, to see if he yet rightly comprehends it, and has made it his own.
To know by rote, is no knowledge, and signifies no more but only to retain what one has intrusted to our memory. That which a man rightly knows and understands, he is the free disposer of at his own full liberty, without any regard to the author from whence he had it, or fumbling over the leaves of his book. A mere bookish learning is a poor, paltry learning; it may serve for ornament, but there is yet no foundation for any superstructure to be built upon it.
Ok. Enough of that.
<although part 1 .. “A mere bookish learning is a poor, paltry learning; it may serve for ornament, but there is yet no foundation for any superstructure to be built upon it” … and althouth part 2 .… ‘That which a man rightly knows and understands, he is the free disposer of at his own full liberty’ are big thoughts we should all be very thoughtful of>
In the end. Just accept you are a teacher. And accept the fact, whether you are actually good or bad at it, that when you DO get it right there is always a way in which teaching invokes curiosity and interest no matter the subject.
Great teachers make learning feel good.
Great teachers actually feel good when it all works.
Great teachers effect living as well as just the mind.
Montaigne also offered the reciprocal thought that “Learning is living, and living is learning”.
If we grownups are truly honest with ourselves, we are not just interested in merely filling a child with knowledge or content, but rather with guiding the child to discover activities that help the child to become “well-formed.” That guidance not only helps to provoke, make them think <sometimes think hard>, and introduce new ways of looking at the world for many years, but it also helps guide them through Life. Because <just as reminder> success in Life is rarely a straight line. And what you teach today may help guide when Life redirects to some unknown destination.
Anyway. Just be a teacher.
Oh. And remember these words, I often use, because they seem relevant to this topic … “37 seconds used wisely … is a lifetime.” 37 seconds of teaching, done well, may last a lifetime.