By Leonard Quilty
I slept and dreamed that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.
~ Rabindranath Tagore
Over the last few months, I have been working on a book about my teaching practice during the past thirty years. My purpose for writing the book is twofold. I want to provide a sampling of my classroom experiences, as well as offer some insights into the profession for new teachers entering this exciting field.
The working title of my book is, “Touching Eternity: Making a Dent in the Pedagogical Universe.” The chapter I am writing now concerns five books I would recommend any new, or experienced, teacher should read. One of those books is Steven R. Covey’s classic self-help book called, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. Wow! What a powerful book this is.
In the last chapter of his book, Dr. Covey relates a personal story of an experience he had while living in Hawaii. While wandering between stacks of books at a college library, he came across an interesting book. He opened it to a paragraph that contained a message which he felt is the essence of his book. The message was: “There is a gap or space between stimulus and response, and the key to both our growth and happiness is how we use that space.” That’s an intriguing thought, isn’t it?
Maybe you are aware that Dr. Covey published another book (about 10 years ago) called The 8th Habit. One of the main premises of this book is what the author calls our inner drive to find our own voice, and then to inspire others to find theirs. In Dr. Covey’s words: “Inspiring others to find their voice is fueled by one great overarching purpose: serving human needs.”
The responsibility of serving human needs is part and parcel of the teacher’s job. Yes, of course, we have to cover the curriculum in order to prepare our students for the rigor of post-secondary education and the ensuing world of work. But beyond that, the effective teacher has to somehow instill in his or her students a sense of pride in the pursuit of knowledge.
The famous philosopher, Aristotle, had it right when he said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” In my experience in the classroom, whether as a student, or working alongside my professional colleagues, the best teachers were the ones who had a knack of, to put it simply, inspiring their students.
Recently, our school hosted an information session for prospective and current families wanting to send, or resend, their children to our school. Several of our professional staff were attendance to answer any questions the families had.
While I was talking to the parents of two or our current students (in my role as guidance counsellor), one of our English teachers happened to walk by our table. The parents greeted my colleague and immediately told her how grateful their son was to have her as his teacher. The praise of my colleague continued for a couple of minutes as the parents lauded her fine skills as an English teacher.
What is about this teacher that sets her up for such high commendation? Two words I think – passion and commitment. Just from my own observations, I know she is very passionate about, and committed to, teaching English in a way her students can learn best.
Best-selling author and speaker, Robin Sharma, says the secret of passion is purpose. When your purpose as a teacher (I’m thinking of my colleague here) is to create a standard of excellence in your classroom, your students cannot help but be inspired.
Leonard Quilty is a guidance counsellor with the Centre for Learning@Home in Okotoks, Alberta. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org