A number of possible answers flood my brain, but one that I come back to over and over again is, “Know thyself.” If we are asleep to ourselves, we cannot offer our best selves to the world. True understanding results from learning our deepest strengths, fears, short-comings, talents and passions. Education must offer us the opportunity to learn who we really are, so we can make the best of ourselves.
Being well-educated used to mean that you had read a lot of books and you knew a lot of facts. Today those activities remain important to education, but they are not sufficient to be considered truly well educated. Today a well-educated person knows how to manage information, how to know what is true and what is false, how to work with people who don’t look, talk or act like you, how to solve novel problems and how to balance work with health and family. A well-educated person knows enough history to be a thoughtful citizen and enough science to be a wise consumer. A well-educated person knows that manners are what keep us civilized.
So, how do teachers impact children’s education?
Teachers are those who can build connections with others as they travel the path of learning.
Teachers are those who support others when they falter at a challenge and need someone to hold their elbow to steady them.
Teachers are those who celebrate others’ greatest accomplishments – the winning shot, the hard-earned mastery of an equation, the first shoelace tied, a challenging book read and understood, a paper revised until it shines, the ability to tackle a problem with confidence, or the moment of standing on stage and delivering a memorized line.
Teachers are those who know that learning is for all of us, forever and ever.
Teachers can be parents, friends, books, ourselves, events witnessed, grandparents, and, especially, those adults who commit to going to school every day to create a safe community for children where they can learn how to use their minds, their hands and their hearts to build, to invent, to imagine, to reflect, to solve, to read, to care, to remember and to practice empathy and respect.