Education Quotes and Sayings about Teaching, Learning, Teachers and Students
Updated June 27, 2012
It's hardly a secret, but there are thousands of web pages that have
quotations or sayings about education. Quotes are everywhere. It's no stretch to say that
appreciates good quotes and sayings, especially ones that convey an important idea. Often, a short
quote or saying reflects wisdom, and can have a more profound impact than ten pages of tortured prose,
or even some pictures. Below
are some of the best I've seen, including the famous "I Taught Them All" and
"The Poor Scholar's Soliloquy," both of which are more than 50 years old.
teacher's words fall on his pupils like harsh rain; the good teacher's, as
gently as dew. Talmud: Ta'anith 7b
Education is like a double-edged sword. It may be turned to dangerous uses if
it is not properly handled. Wu Ting-Fang
need and what they want may be very different.... Teachers are those who educate
the people to appreciate the things they need. Elbert Hubbard
Truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it,
but, in the end, there it is.
Sir Winston Churchill
Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know
that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the
rest of us would have to settle for something less. Lee Iacocca
I am a teacher! What I do and say are being absorbed by young minds who will
echo these images across the ages. My lessons will be immortal, affecting people
yet unborn, people I will never see or know. The future of the world is in my
classroom today, a future with the potential for good or bad. The pliable minds
of tomorrow's leaders will be molded either artistically or grotesquely by what
Several future presidents are learning from me today; so are the great
writers of the next decades, and so are all the so-called ordinary people who
will make the decisions in a democracy. I must never forget these same young
people could be the thieves or murderers of the future.
Only a teacher? Thank God I have a calling to the greatest profession of all!
I must be vigilant every day lest I lose one fragile opportunity to improve
tomorrow. Ivan Welton Fitzwater
No man who worships education has got the best out of education... Without a
gentle contempt for education, no man's education is complete.
G. K. Chesterton
If you say you understand something, then you can explain what you understand
to others. Anything short of that is deception, not understanding. Education,
above all, should not be about fostering deception. In the same vein, anything
not understood in more than one way is not understood at all.
R. J. Kizlik
Apply yourself. Get all the education you can, but then, by God, do
something. Don't just stand there, make it happen.
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.
TEACHING AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY
By Postman & Weingartner
1. Declare a five-year moratorium on the use of all textbooks
2. Have “English” teachers “teach” Math, Math teachers English, Social
Studies teachers science, Science teachers Art, and so on.
3. Transfer all elementary teachers to high school and vice versa.
4. Require every teacher who thinks he knows his “subject” well to write a
book on it.
5. Dissolve all “subjects”, “courses”, and “course requirements”.
6. Limit each teacher to three declarative sentences per class, and 15
7. Prohibit teachers from asking any questions they already know the answers
8. Declare a moratorium on all tests and grades.
9. Require all teachers to undergo some form of psychotherapy as part of
their in-service training
10. Classify teachers according to their ability and make the lists public.
11. Require all teachers to take a test prepared by students on what the
12. Make every class an elective and withhold a teacher's monthly check if
his students do not show any interest in going to next month's classes.
13. Require every teacher to take a one-year leave of absence every fourth
year to work in some other “field” other than education.
14. Require each teacher to provide some sort of evidence that he or she has
had a loving relationship with at least one other human being.
15. Require that all the graffiti accumulated in the school toilets be
reproduced on large paper and be hung in the school halls.
16. There should be a general prohibition against the use of the following
words and phrases:
Teach, syllabus, covering ground, I.Q., makeup, test, disadvantaged, gifted,
accelerated, enhancement, course, grade, score, human nature, dumb, college
material, and administrative necessity.
THE POOR SCHOLAR'S SOLILOQUY
Stephen M. Corey
No, I'm not very good in school. This is my second year in the seventh grade,
and I'm bigger and taller than the other kids. They like me all right, though,
even if I don't say much in the classroom, because outside I can tell them how
to do a lot of things. They tag me around and that sort of makes up for what
goes on in school.
I don't know why the teachers don't like me. They never have very much. Seems
like they don't think you know anything unless you can name the books it comes
out of. I've got a lot of books in my room at home-books like Popular Science
Mechanical Encyclopedia, and the Sears & Wards catalogues--but I don't sit down
and read them like they make us do in school. I use my books when I want to find
something out, like whenever mom buys anything second-hand I look it up in Sears
or Wards first and tell her if she's getting stung or not. I can use the index
in a hurry.
In school, though, we've got to learn whatever is in the book and I just
can't memorize the stuff. Last year I stayed after school every night for two
weeks trying to learn the names of the presidents. Of course, I knew some of
them--like Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln, but there must have been thirty
altogether, and I never did get them straight. I'm not too sorry though, because
the kids who learned the presidents had to turn right around and learn all the
vice-presidents. I am taking the seventh grade over, but our teacher this year
isn't so interested in the names of the presidents. She has us trying to learn
the names of all the great American inventors.
I guess I just can't remember the names in history. Anyway, this year I've
been trying to learn about trucks because my uncle owns three, and he says I can
drive one when I'm sixteen. I already know the horsepower and number of forward
and backward speeds of twenty-six American trucks, some of them Diesels, and I
can spot each make a long way off. It's funny how that Diesel works. I started
to tell my teacher about it last Wednesday in science class when the pump we
were using to make a vacuum in a bell jar got hot, but she, didn't see what a
Diesel engine had to do with our experiment on air pressure, so I just kept
still. The kids seemed interested though. I took four of them around to my
uncle's garage after school, and we saw the mechanic, Gus, tear a big truck
Diesel down. Boy does he know his stuff!
I'm not very good in geography either. They call it economic geography this
year. We've been studying the imports and exports of Chile all week, but I
couldn't tell what they are. Maybe the reason is I had to miss school yesterday
because my uncle took me and his big truck down and we brought almost 10 tons of
livestock to the Chicago market.
He had told me where we were going, and I had to figure out the highways to
take and also the mileage. He didn't do anything but drive and turn where I told
him to, Was that fun. I sat with a map in my lap, and told him to turn south, or
southeast, or some other direction. We made seven stops, and drove over 500
miles round trip. I'm figuring now what his oil cost, and also the wear and tear
on the truck--he calls it depreciation--so we'll know how much we made.
I even write out all the bills and send letters to the farmers about what
their pigs and beef cattle brought at the stockyards. I only made three mistakes
in 17 letters last time, my aunt said, all commas. She's been through high
school and reads them over. I wish I could write school themes that way. The
last one I had to write was on, "What a Daffodil Thinks of Spring," and I just
couldn't get going.
I don't do very well in school in arithmetic either. Seems I just can't keep
my mind on the problems. We had one the other day like this:
If a 57 foot telephone pole falls across a cement highway so that 17 3/6 feet
extended from one side and 14 9/17 feet from the other how wide is the highway?
That seemed to me like an awfully silly way to get the width of a highway. I
didn't even try to answer it because it didn't say whether the pole had fallen
straight across or not.
Even in shop I don't get very good grades. All of us kids made a broom holder
and bookend this term, and mine were sloppy. I just couldn't get interested. Mom
doesn't use a broom anymore with her vacuum cleaner, and all our books are in a
bookcase with glass doors in the living room. Anyway, I wanted to make an end
gate for my uncle's trailer, but the shop teacher said that meant using metal
and wood both, and I'd have to learn how to work with wood first. I didn't see
why, but I kept still and made a tie rack at school and the tail gate after
school at my uncle's garage. He said I saved him ten dollars.
Civics is hard for me, too. I've been staying after school trying to learn
the "Articles of Confederation" for almost a week, because the teacher said we
couldn't be a good citizen unless we did. I really tried, though, because I want
to be a good citizen. I did hate to stay after school because a bunch of boys
from the south end of town have been cleaning up the old lot across from
Taylor's Machine Shop to make a playground out of it for the little kids from
the Methodist home. I made the jungle gym from old pipe. We raised enough money
collecting scrap this month to build a wire fence clear around the lot.
Dad says I can quit school when I am sixteen, and I am sort of anxious
because there are a lot of things I want to learn--and as my uncle says, I'm not
getting any younger.
"Anything not understood in more than one way is
not understood at all."
Robert Kizlik & Associates
Boca Raton, Florida