Tuesday, December 11, 2012
What You Are - What You Teach
Think back to all the teachers you've ever had during your years of school from five years of age onwards.
Who was your favorite?
Chances are, the teacher you selected wasn't distinguished in your mind because of the way they taught you the multiplication tables or the periodic table of the elements. it's far more likely that you selected that individual because of the way they interacted with you. Odds are that it was an emotional or psychological imprint they left rather than a memory based on instruction alone. For me it was someone who breathed life into the following words, "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." After the teacher has earned your respect, trust, and faith, (your intent) you are more willing to invest your energy and effort in what they have to teach you (their content).
Here's a powerful and profound quote from someone who was involved in working on projects with great influence on children - Jim Henson, of Sesame Street fame:
“[Kids] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” ― Jim Henson, It's Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider
That statement reminds us, as educators, of the tremendous burden we have when collaborating with learners of all ages and all stages to nurture dreams and sustain hope while creating the future. Although the multitude of state assessments across the country do not test character, moral courage, and ethics, these attributes are collectively critical to our society in the days and years ahead. Our position of influence and responsibility is accompanied by role expectations that often form leverage points as one develops and progresses from Kindergarten through grade twelve. It is inescapable to children, no matter the formal evaluation rubric crafted by educational experts and used to measure instructional expertise, that educators are perhaps less about what they teach in the curriculum and more about what they teach through their actions and interactions.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow asserts - "What you are thunders so loudly that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary."
The test of our mettle as educators is far more important than a medal for scores on the state tests.
I'm not dismissing the value of performance standards assessing knowledge and skills in the classroom, but rather advocating that one is often the prerequisite of the other. That is, returning to Henson's quote, what you are may resonate with learners more than what you teach. Earn that respect and trust as a person to enhance what you hope to transmit as a teacher.