Aug 24

On Teaching and Being a Good Person

So… an SLA alum who is studying to be a teacher texted me this the other day (it took several texts):

I definitely think <SLA teacher> is the most gifted teacher technically speaking in the school. He has an ability to figure out how each student’s brain will best understand whatever he’s teaching and explain it accordingly. Do you know if he took some program to learn how to figure out the learning styles or just learned it on the job or if he was just born with it like some super power? Because I want to be able to do that.

Here was my response:

Here’s the Super Power: Listen and watch a lot. Be aware of who the kid in front of you IS, not who you want them to be.

Her response was that I made complex ideas sound simple. To which I replied:

Sometimes we make the world harder than it has to be. Be kind, listen deeply, care a lot, have enough strength in yourself not to get taken advantage of, but never let your own ego get in the way of seeing a kid in need. And always remember, you are never that far away from being idiot you were when you were sixteen, so honor the fact that people helped you survive that time and remember that the wisdom you have today comes from the doofus stuff you did then.

Oh yeah, and forgive other people their flaws in the hope that people will forgive you yours.

Astrophysics is hard. Being a good person is pretty easy. And the first step to being a great teacher is being a good person.

It was late at night, so you’ll forgive me for being a little preachy. But it’s not terrible advice for a young teacher or even an old teacher / principal, I think. The both good and bad thing about teaching is that who we are as people comes through in who we are as teachers. You can be a very good person, and not be a great teacher, of course, but I’m not sure you can be a great teacher without being a good person.