Teaching is considered one of the world’s oldest professions, and throughout history there have been some extraordinarily amazing teachers, such as Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, who is linked with the saying “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”.
I am now a retired teacher, with over three decades in the trenches of public education. Although I have certainly weathered my share of conflicts like every battle-tested teacher, I have found more praise than criticism for my unconventional teaching methods.
Why? Simply, because caring about students is the most effective teaching tool that any educator can possess, when it comes to caring for today’s youths.
Unfortunately, we live in an age and culture where it is not cool to care, and where emotionless education has become the norm rather than the exception. Today being a teacher is risky business. Teachers are afraid that their emotions will be misconstrued for impropriety, and reluctant to show students how much they as teachers truly sympathize, empathize and prioritize them in their lives.
Shakespeare’s King Lear Act 3 Scene 4, says it best: “That way lies madness”. In current times that way spells a lawsuit. When educators allow love to define their role as a teacher, they do not need to try to become a student’s parent, best friend, therapist or doctor.
Teaching is not about who we are to children, but instead, about how we treat them. Being an empathetic adult makes us human. There is no shame in sharing our humanity or acknowledging that of the students. How can we create fully human individuals without it?
In his book, “Teacher and Child”, Holocaust survivor, Dr. Haim Ginott, makes a plea to teachers. He explained how the barbarities he witnessed in a concentration camp were effectuated by educated people, and requested that teachers help build their student’s humanity, not just their classroom skills.
According to Ginott, “Help your children become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths or educated Eichmanns”.
Reading, writing and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human. Inquiring of students how they are doing, before diving into learning, conversing with them after school, laughing and listening to what they have to say, is how teachers can share their humanity with their students. Let it not be forgotten that knowledge without compassion creates a world of smart, unhuman people.
Teachers it is your duty to make your students more human. There is something about being human, which is entirely unique among the remainder of the animal kingdom. No other living creature has the capacity for original thought and creativity, as humans do.