I recently read a quote by famed educational psychologist Lee Shulman that discussed the challenges of being a classroom teacher. He said:
“Classroom teaching is perhaps the most complex, most challenging, and most demanding, subtle, nuanced, and frightening activity that our species has ever invented. In fact, when I compared the complexity of teaching with that much more highly rewarded profession, ‘doing medicine,’ I concluded that the only time medicine even approaches the complexity of an average day of classroom teaching is in an emergency room during a natural disaster.”
As we start a new school year, I want to celebrate the tremendous work our teachers do. Along with parents, they’re the most essential element of our society – they’re the dream makers, the world-changers, and the legacy-leavers. Every day we hand them our most precious assets, knowing they will instill the knowledge and abilities our kids need to create lives they’ll be proud of.
August can be a very stressful time for educators. They’re preparing lessons, getting their classrooms ready, and scrambling to juggle what feels like millions of things with their already limited time.
It’s my hope that our teachers can take a moment during this busy time and recognize the contributions they make.
Our team has been blessed to meet many of the great teachers that inspire our children every day, and I’d like to share some of the wisdom and perspective they’ve imparted to us. We hope these thoughts on teaching will help our educators recognize the extraordinary nature of their work, and reinforce the reason they got into this profession: the desire to have an impact on the future of our youth.
Here are 5 empowering thoughts on teaching to inspire even more teachers out there:
- A mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.
The originator of this quote is unknown, but to me it’s the essence of education. You cannot undo knowledge. Grades will be forgotten and awards will collect dust, but the person one becomes during the learning process lasts forever. It’s the foundation of the happiness and success we all want for our children.
There is no greater gift than the one which educators help give our kids every day: the ability to survive and thrive without us (their parents and teachers).
By teaching them to be independent and then inter-dependent, these teachers help students gain the strength and confidence to fulfill their potential and make their lives exponential through others. What greater gift could there be?
- Every moment is a teaching moment.
In our research of happy and successful people, we would ask what the keys were to their success. Many mentioned teachers they’d had in their youth. While they discussed the quality of the teachers, they pointed even more often to moments or specific messages delivered at very important times.
You just never know what those crucial moments are going to be or when they’ll pop up. You never know what action or word will make a difference forever. Treat every moment spent teaching as precious and significant. Be present and instill knowledge, wisdom and love everywhere you can.
- Your students will rise and fall to the level of expectations that you set for them.
My partner and 7 Mindsets co-founder Scott Shickler uses this quote frequently. As we’ve observed and studied great teachers in our school system, one unifying element we’ve noted is a belief in each and every one of their students, regardless of academic prowess or personal challenges.
One teacher we know at an extremely at-risk high school requires his students to read Shakespeare and discuss quantum physics. It’s not about them mastering the content, just understanding that they too are capable of learning and interacting at the highest intellectual and academic levels.
The greatest obstacles students will ever face are those in their own minds. Great teachers do the work that removes limiting thinking, which is the ultimate impediment to happiness and success!
- By inspiring a child, you make the world a better place forever.
I often think about my 11th grade social studies teacher Mrs. Bulloch. I was a shy boy, and (more than once) she said to me, “Jeff, you have something extraordinary to share with the world, and just need to find the courage to share it.”
So many times in my life, I’ve fallen back on these words to find strength. In fact, I feel that in many ways, if I do have an impact with my life, it will be because of those words.
By taking the time to help children every day, our teachers are making the world a better place. Consideration and attention are the adversaries of neglect and disinterest, and the best teachers employ these to ensure they’re helping create a generation that’s wiser and more enlightened than the last.
The value teachers create is like compound interest – it becomes exponential over time!
- They may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
We lost a truly special human being when we lost Maya Angelou, the author of this quote, in 2014. Meaning in life truly comes through the relationships we develop and the people we impact. And teacher’s lives are transcended through the lives of the students they teach. It is an awesome responsibility that our educators carry, but also a supreme honor.
We all have two fundamental needs. One is a sense of belonging; the other is a feeling of significance. Create a sense of community in your classroom and make sure every child understands that they matter. They are each unique expressions of human life, and that is a wonderful thing. Within each student is the ability to do something no one else ever has or ever will in quite the same way. And it’s a certainty that they’ll never care how much you know until they know how much you care.
As our teachers prepare for their students, I hope they will reflect not simply on the “how” they are going to tackle everything, but strongly on the “what” (our children) and the “why” (our future) as well.
I recently read that Kim Kardashian received over a $1M for a tweet to promote a dress she was wearing. Personally, I find it tragic that our society values this (at least financially) over the work our teachers are doing daily throughout our country.
There is little I can do to address this monetarily, but there are also many forms of currency. I believe that, in the end, the great teachers who impact our youth so powerfully will find infinitely greater wealth in the meaning and significance of their lives than any dollar amount can provide.