Becoming a great teacher…

It was once said that the “mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, and the great teacher inspires.”

Often simple riddles, such as the above, can be so completely and utterly simplistic and conventional in it’s assertion that it fails to in any meaningful way expound the depth and complexity of a particular thing. The emotional warmth of a phrase becomes the reason one excepts it, rather than the guiding light of the intellect seeking to connect the assertion with reality. Yet, having this in mind, the above phrase strikes me as quite true even if simple in form. This is for a couple of reasons.

First, it seems clear that the nature of the best teachers are those who can help their students not only learn facts about a particular thing, but they are also one’s who can incite within their students an excitement about the particular thing being learned. The teacher guides them into seeing the broader meaning of an event, idea, or concept. As a result, the student can see the “bigger picture” and consequently the implications of things. Through the enlightenment that they have been led into they begin to become inspired by the understanding they have gained.

Logically following is that the student will gain a desire of learning in general. The pursuit of truth has become more attractive to him. Pursuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge has become a love of his, though not because he seeks to selfishly hoard this, but because he realizes that in learning he has a become a wiser and better person.

This inspiration produced within the student becomes the second reason I agree with the above quote. For the great teacher not only will inspire the student to love the particular subject they are presently learning, they will also push the student toward a love of learning in general. The teacher is an aid to the student in their pursuit of truth, and seeks where ever they can to bring a desire to their heart to seek out and pursue truth in all aspects of life.

He plays the role similar to the faithful Dad who seeks to help his child learn how to ride a bike. The Dad wants to see the child in the end ride without training wheels. Yet, he understands the value of the training wheels as a necessary stage in learning. Yet, the child will never learn how to ride the bike without training wheels if the Dad is only telling, and demonstrating the way it should be done. The child must learn for himself. The Dad must give just enough confidence within his son to get him to go up to the next stage. Undoubtedly, there are bumps and bruises along the way. But, paradoxically, to fall off the bike is the beginning of being able to ride the bike.

In the same way, the teacher must patiently guide and inspire within the student the desire to have truth, while being sure to simultaneously release the student to go on their own journey toward this end that will be filled with many ups and downs.

Yet, without the ‘downs’ along this journey it seems that the ‘ups’ would not be able to stand.


One response to “Becoming a great teacher…

  1. I like the post Clint. I think it fits with how I view teaching as a vocation in inspiration towards greater meaning. I would add that education is a journey in character formation where a person is exploring, through learning, what it means to be human. I’d be interested to see what you think about what I can add to the discussion in my post on a humanist view of education.


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