I believe in the power and impact of teaching. I believe that there is no more important an activity than teaching, because it has both immediate and very far-reaching effects. I teach my three children to say please and thank you, that politeness and respect for others will go a long way to making their world a more productive and pleasant place. I teach them this because my parents and their parents and their parents before them taught the same lessons. I believe that teaching is cumulative, a system of foundations upon which subsequent generations build on all preceding generations’ knowledge and skills. I believe that what the human species has accomplished is a direct result of all of the teaching throughout history. I believe that we are alive, we prosper, we attempt peace, we make war, we love and we hate, we eat carrots instead of poison ivy, we discriminate or we tolerate based on what we are taught directly or indirectly through the generations.
I did not choose teaching as a profession, it seems to me that the profession chose me that day in a classroom at Brandeis University. I was a former pre-med student and current history major, enjoying my new studies but at a loss as to what my new knowledge would do for me. Then I was struck, not by a Frisbee or a thrown book, but by a quote from the Master. He said, “He who learns but does not think, is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.” As soon as I read this line I understood that teaching was my, for lack of a better cliché, calling. What better activity is there than to help future generations to have knowledge of our past and then to use that knowledge constructively?
Now, eighteen years and over 2500 students later, I still believe that teaching has an immediate and long-term impact. I remember that large, powerful football player 13 years ago, who 7 months into the school year picked up his head, straightened his shoulders, and with great pride discussed the connection between an economics concept from early in the year to a current topic discussed that day. I hear from former students how my AP Comparative Government class provided them with a whole new system, a new language, for understanding the international scene and their own community, as well as the habits of mind to succeed in the rigorous world of high academia and the world at large.
I believe in the power and impact of teaching. However, I also believe that the reason that teaching has had such an impact, is that while the teachers were did the teaching, the students did the learning. There has always been, and must always be a collaboration of the teacher and the learner. This I believe: that the continued evolution of mankind is wholly dependent on teachers effectively teaching, and students doing their equal share in effectively learning.
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