Good teachers are costly, but bad teachers cost more.
Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour
falls from the sky a meteoric shower of facts;
They lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
is daily spun,
But there exists no loom
to weave it into fabric.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
"Huntsman, What Quarry?" 1939
Cautious, careful people always casting about to preserve their reputation
and social standing, never can bring about a reform.
Susan B. Anthony
Three things give the student the possibility of surpassing his teacher: ask
a lot of questions, remember the answers, teach.
Jan Amos Coménius
Everything depends upon the quality of experience . . . just as no man lives
or dies to himself, so no experience lives and dies to itself.
Any experience is mis-educative that has the effect of arresting or
distorting the growth of further experience.
The central problem of an education based upon experience is to select the
kind of present experience that live fruitfully and creatively in subsequent
experiences. John Dewey, 1938
When I think about all the crap
I learned in high school . . .
. . . . . it's a wonder I can think at all. Paul Simon
Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner; put
yourself in his place so that you may understand . . . what he learns and the
way he understands it. Soren Kierkegaard
The desire to know is far more important than achievement and/or performance
Caine & Caine
It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and
Albert Einstein 1940
The teacher is one who made two ideas grow where only one grew before.
Learning is something students do, NOT something done to students.
It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of
instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for
this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of
freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail.
Education, properly understood, is that which teaches discernment.
Courses in education given at...teachers' colleges have traditionally been
used as a substitute for genuine scholarship. In my opinion, much of the
so-called science of "education" was invented as a necessary mechanism for
enabling semi-educated people to act as tolerable teachers. Sloan Wilson
I have visited sweatshops, factories, and crowded slums. If I could not see
it, I could smell it. The foundation of society is laid upon a basis of . . .
individualism, conquest and exploitation . . . A social order such as this,
built upon such wrong and basic principles, is bound to retard the development
of all. The output of a cotton mill or a coal mine is considered of greater
importance than the production of healthy, happy-hearted and free human beings.
We, the people, are not free. Our democracy is but a name.
If the student-written text is to go beyond the stories about generals and
millionaires and queens and kings, teachers have to help their students, in one
way or other, to discover and record the voices of the common men and women who
reflect the real life out of which all history is made. This is especially the
case in writing about minorities, as well as about women.
Our tendency is to attempt to make up for the errors of the past by listing
(and praising) as many notable blacks, or women, as we can possibly
"collect"--in order, it seems, to struggle back in kind against all of those
white male Anglo-Saxon figures who now dominate the school curricula.
We continue, however, to write about important people, prize-winning people,
blacks of grandeur, women of great fire, fame or wit. We do not write about
ordinary people. Jonathon Kozol On Being a Teacher
I Taught Them All
I have taught high school for 10 years. During that time, I have given
assignments, among others, to a murderer, an evangelist, a pugilist, a thief,
and an imbecile.
The murderer was a quiet little boy who sat on the front seat and regarded me
with pale blue eyes; the evangelist, easily the most popular boy in school, had
the lead in the junior play; the pugilist lounged by the window and let loose at
intervals a raucous laugh that startled even the geraniums; the thief was a
gay-hearted Lothario with a song on his lips; and the imbecile, a soft-eyed
little animal seeking the shadows.
The murderer awaits death in the state penitentiary; the evangelist has lain
a year now in the village churchyard; the pugilist lost an eye in a brawl in
Hong Kong; the thief, by standing on tiptoe, can see the windows of my room from
the county jail; and the once gentle-eyed little moron beats his head against a
padded wall in the state asylum.
All of these pupils once sat in my room, sat and looked at me gravely across
worn brown desks. I must have been a great help to those pupils--I taught them
the rhyming scheme of the Elizabethan sonnet and how to diagram a complex
sentence. Naomi White 1937
"Insight into soul-action, ability to discriminate the genuine from the sham
and capacity to further one and discourage the other."
I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the
classroom. It's my personal approach that creates the climate. It's my daily
mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a
student's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument
of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations it is
my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and
a student humanized or de-humanized.
The "Hidden Curriculum"
•The teacher "teaches" and the students "sit and listen" or learn passively.
•There is one "right answer" to any question, and it is in the book to be
•The answer to most questions can be given in one or two words, and no one
will challenge you to go deeper.
•Books and teachers are always "right", and we learn only from them, not from
any other resource in the room, such as our friends.
•If we wait long enough, a teacher will answer her own question, so we won't
have to do much work.
•The teacher is the only one worth listening to.
•If we ask enough questions about a difficult assignment, we can get the
teacher to make it easier and less demanding.
•"Thinking" is not something we talk about.
•If I memorize enough stuff, I can get a good grade.
•Most tasks and tests will demand recall of isolated pieces of information,
and I will not have to show how concepts and ideas are related or how facts
illustrate underlying principles. Barrell (1991)
To say that you have taught when students haven't learned is to say you have
sold when no one has bought. But how can you know that students have learned
without spending hours correcting tests and papers? . . . check students
understanding while you are teaching (not at 10 o'clock at night when you're
correcting papers) so you don't move on with unlearned material that can
accumulate like a snowball and eventually engulf the student in confusion and
despair. Madeline Hunter, 1989
Only through education does one come to be dissatisfied with his own
knowledge, and only through teaching others does one come to realize the
uncomfortable inadequacy of his knowledge. Being dissatisfied with his own
knowledge, one then realizes that the trouble lies with himself, and realizing
the uncomfortable inadequacy of his knowledge one then feels stimulated to
improve himself. Therefore, it is said, "the processes of teaching and learning
stimulate one another." Confucius, circa 500 BCE
I wake up every morning determined both to change the world and have one hell
of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning the day a little difficult.
That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you've understood
all your life, but in a new way.
Pick Battles big enough to matter, small enough to win
What Teacher Education Programs forget to tell their candidates:
•A teacher cannot be all things to all people
•You are not a "bad person" if you are not always able to meet all the needs
of all your students
•You are a powerful and compelling figure in the lives of your students
•In recalling their school years, students mostly remember their teachers,
and not the courses they took
•You need to find a "critical friend" whom you can trust to serve as a
•At times students can be very cruel, difficult, and mean-spirited
•It is a mistake to personalize a student's unacceptable behavior
•Teachers love their students as their parents love them--but in a different
way and for a different reason
•Few people will ever appreciate the amount of time and effort teachers give
to their teaching
•By choosing to be a teacher, you have entered an emotionally dangerous
•You are both a role model and change agent
•You need to pay attention to both your physical and emotional well-being
•Teaching is not like inducing a chemical reaction, but more like creating a
painting, or planting a garden, or writing a friendly letter.
•Teaching is a complicated business because students are such unexpected
blends of character, personality, and background
•Most of the significant advances in civilization have been the result of the
work of teachers
•Teaching is an act of faith in the promise of the future
•Teaching is a way of life
James Marran, Social Studies Dept. Chair
New Trier High School, Winnetka, Ill.