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For teachers: Words of encouragement

Posted by Aug 17th, 2010.

The teacher begins another year in the classroom.  Full of hope.

If this is you, perhaps these words and examples might strengthen your will, your resolve.

From The Denver Post, Nov. 19, 2006  – article by Jenny Deam:

Deam quotes Stephanie Rossi, Wheat Ridge High School. We have a responsibility to the public, taxpayers, parents, our principal, our colleagues. But here Rossi speaks for many of us.

She “knows many see hers as a profession under siege.  Nearly half of all new teachers leave within five years, citing low pay, poor working conditions and the drumbeat of failure if test scores don’t rise. ‘I could react that way,’ Rossi says sympathetically. ‘But if I gave in to the pressure, the fear, it would paralyze me in the classroom. My responsibility is to the kids. They are who get my energy.’”

“What we leave behind is not engraved in some monument but woven into the lives of others.” — Pericles

From The Denver Post, April 1, 2007 – article by David Milofsky:

Milofsky quotes T.C. Boyle, a writer, who continues to teach creative writing classes and workshops. Boyle said he was of two minds about the benefits of creative writing programs, aware that they do not work for a number of would-be writers.  But then he speaks for many of us, on the potential we see in a number of our students, which lifts our spirits and keeps us going:  “Given the right situation, a young writer can get what he needs to go on. I’m always amazed at the great well of talent out there, which is why I continue to teach.”

From The College (Fall 2007), St. John’s College (The Great Books Program):

Just as Boyle speaks of being struck by the talent in his students, Thomas Slakey, tutor emeritus at St. John’s, speaks for many teachers in commenting on how much students give back, how we too TAKE from the good discussions. (The job is NOT entirely selfless!) A reminder too of the rewards (and the value) of listening.  “The thing St. John’s really does, and does well, is help people learn to read well, to pay attention to what a text says one book at a time. That’s the thing that makes teaching there so pleasant, reading and learning from the students.”

“The heart that giveth, gathers.” –  English proverb

From The College (Fall 2007), St, John’s College:

Eric Salem, another St. John’s tutor, captures our challenge in preparing for classes where the readings can be intimidating, humbling; it is part of what makes getting ready for class both exciting and exhausting.  Salem says “the best thing about being a tutor at St. John’s ‘is that you’re always in the presence of things that are really great.’ The worst thing about being a tutor? Exactly the same thing.

“You’re in the presence of things that are great, but there’s always a strain,” Salem says. “You never feel as if you can stop and say, ‘Ah, I’m ready for this class.’ There is always more to think about. You always have to try not just to get hold of what’s going on in the book, but also to be open to what everyone else is saying, to respond to the best things in what people are saying–it’s hard work.”

“What greater or better gift can we offer than to teach and instruct our youth?” — Cicero

From the National Council of Teachers of English magazine, Nov. 2007:

Jonathan Kozol, author and teacher – article, “Bearing Witness,” by Deb Aronson.

“… teachers themselves have always been Kozol’s heroes. He admires them, he encourages them, and he celebrates them.

“His most recent book, Letters to a Young Teacher (2007), is a collection of correspondence between him and one such soldier, Francesca, a young teacher whose classroom he visited almost weekly throughout one year.  Although in this book Kozol continues to point out the deep inequities and just plain meanness inflicted on the poor through the public school system, Letters also contains a generous dollop of glee and optimism, which helps remind teachers everywhere why they took up this challenge.”

“It’s the first genuinely cheerful book I’ve ever written,” says Kozol. “This book is written as an invitation to a challenging but beautiful profession.”

He goes on: “There are hundreds of thousands of young, incandescent people like Francesca coming out of universities now who want to teach in inner schools. I meet them everywhere I go. They ask me, ‘can you help me find a job in an inner city school?’ Because they believe the front lines of democracy are there.”

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

From the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education:

“The more completely an educator can give concrete witness to the model of the ideal person that is being presented to the students, the more this ideal will be believed and imitated. For it will then be seen as something reasonable and worthy of being lived, something concrete and realizable.”

From The Rocky Mountain News, May 31, 2008

John Temple, editor, on teachers like Will Taylor at East High School:

“What amazes me about the teachers I’ve come to admire during the past few years is how, with each class, they take the students in.  They embrace them as family, and they let them go. Then they do it again…. In my daughter’s case, I saw how a single teacher made a group of headstrong teens see that they could be something greater working together than if they sought the limelight for themselves…. I hope that each student can be exposed to at least one adult like Will Taylor, the choir teacher at East, who shows his students that not only can they create beauty but that they are capable of so much more than they ever could have imagined.”

“Joy can be real only if people look upon their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness.” — Leo Tolstoy

From “like captured butterflies,” in America and the Americans, collected essays by John Steinbeck:

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there as few as there are any other great artists.  It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”

He writes of the three teachers who meant the most to him, who “had these things in common—They all loved what they were doing. They did not tell—they catalyzed a burning desire to know. Under their influence, the horizons sprung wide and fear went away and the unknown became knowable. But most important of all, the truth, that dangerous stuff, became beautiful and very precious.”

Steinbeck writes: “I have had many teachers who told me soon-forgotten facts but only three who created in me a new thing, a new attitude and a new hunger.” One of them was his high school teacher, who “breathed curiosity into us so that we brought in facts or truths shielded in our hands like captured fireflies…. I suppose to that extent I am the unsigned manuscript of that high school teacher.”

The teacher begins another year in the classroom.  Full of hope.

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