Soon teachers will be sending back-to-school letters and decorating their classrooms. As you think about what your classroom will look like and who your students are, consider these five quotes to help you focus on the school year ahead.
1. "Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theatre." - Gail Goldwin
I will never forget the sense of awe and wonder I had when I saw The Lion King on Broadway. Each costume, each prop, each feature was a spectacle of creativity. What if each feature of our lesson had the same theatricality? What if we do more than just disseminate content? What if we created an experience? To see what I'm talking about, watch this TED Talk by Dave Burgess.
2. "If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around." - Jim Rohn
Often we don't know what hard battles our students are fighting. Family strife, self-esteem, and the search for identity are a few of the struggles my students have had to tackle, often alone. Some chose to travel down the dangerous road of rebellion, drugs, and acts of hate to cope with pain. A supportive, nurturing classroom may be their only sanctuary from the turmoil of their lives. We may be the only force in their lives that believes it can get better, that they can in fact turn it around. Let us not take this responsibility lightly.
3. "Once you have learned to ask questions – relevant and appropriate and substantial questions – you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know." - Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner
Content knowledge is important, but the best teachers that I have worked with mastered the art of questioning. This is because teaching is less about what you know and more about enabling students to know for themselves. How does that happen? By asking probing questions that take their thinking to another level, encouraging them to wrestle with content and skills in a thought-provoking way. A deft questioner not only navigates students to deeper understanding, he or she also implicitly models the habits of a curious mind - one that is hungry for knowledge.
4. “What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” - Karl A. Menninger
Students have a remarkable ability to remember something we said in September, and it comes back to us months later. We just don't know what will resonate with them and when it will happen. Sometimes they are listening when we least expect it. They may be focused when their body language says otherwise. The thing is they want of us to make a difference in their lives when everything they do seems counter to it. Let us model what it means to be a caring, considerate human being as much as we possibly can. This may stay with them longer than any content knowledge we can pass on.
5. "There's no word in the language I revere more than 'teacher.' My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher, and it always has. I've honored myself and the entire family of man by becoming a teacher." - Pat Conroy
In the overwhelming moments, when tests pile up, when referrals need to be written, when that difficult email needs to be sent to a parent, let us find our own moment of clarity and zen by remembering what an honor it is to be a teacher and the role we play in the progress of humanity.
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