From the Teacher’s Desk ~ Finding Joy in the Craft of Teaching

By Leonard Quilty

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.
– Buddha

One of the things that drew me into the teaching profession thirty years ago was that I felt I had something important to say to my students. Of course, my main focus as “the sage on the stage” (as I sometimes pretend to be!), has always been to cover the curriculum content in a way that hopefully engages the learners in front of me.
However, beyond teaching the finer points of French grammar or the use of figurative language in a certain poem, I have always felt compelled to give my students something else to think about before they leave my class. One of the joys of the craft of teaching is that sometimes when you attempt to impart a few words of wisdom, an unexpected consequence occurs.

One such example was when, about fifteen years ago, I was teaching a course called Family Living. I don’t recall how the topic came up, but during one class I was reminding the students about the power of our thoughts, and how important it is to control our thought life so that by doing so we can generate the results that we are seeking.
In that regard, I quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, who once said: “You become what you think about all day long.” No sooner did I have those words out of my mouth when a hand shot up at the back of the class. When I acknowledged this student, he quickly blurted out: “Sir, that can’t be right. We don’t become what we think about all day long.”
When I asked the student why he thought that way, he said: “If that’s the case, I would be a girl!”

On another interesting occasion, I was teaching a course in Entrepreneurship and had decided to invite a guest speaker into my class. The gist of the speaker’s talk focused on the need for would be entrepreneurs, or anyone setting out to accomplish something significant in their life, to be proactive and take charge of making it happen.
Towards the end of his speech, the speaker took a twenty dollar bill out of his wallet and held it up in the air. He then asked his attentive audience: “What do you think is the best way to get this twenty dollar bill?” The students looked somewhat puzzled and gazed around the class at each other. They then directed a pensive look in my direction.
After about a minute had passed, I calmly walked up to the speaker and took the money from his raised hand. He immediately applauded my action and said to the class: “That’s how you do it.”

When I offered to return the money to the speaker, he politely refused to take it and encouraged me to enjoy the proceeds of my mild display of bravado.

On my way home from work that day, I reflected on what lesson I’d hoped my students drew from the class. Some thoughts that came to mind were: as an entrepreneur, it’s important to take a calculated risk when needed; as a go-getter, it’s important to step out on faith. As Will Rogers once said: “You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.”

The last lesson of course was the importance of celebrating successes along the way. When I returned to class the next day, my students asked what I had done with the money I had “earned.” I was happy to inform them that my family and I had indeed celebrated my winnings – the takeout pizza was delicious!

Leonard Quilty is a guidance counsellor with the Centre for Learning@Home in Okotoks, Alberta. He can be reached by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter @leonardquilty.