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Teacher, Don’t Stop Now!

August 7, 2019

Beautiful young student

Teachers, thank you!  You play one of the most valuable roles in our society. Sure, your paycheck probably does not reflect that, and your students and their parents will not always recognize it, but make no mistake, we need you! Teaching is a noble profession that enables people to connect in such powerful ways that lives are changed, discoveries are made, understanding is shared, and society as a whole is strengthened. In the words of St. John Chrysostom (347-407 AD), “What greater work is there than training the mind and forming the habits of the young?” We cannot over-estimate the value of a good teacher.

As another school year begins, I want to encourage my educator friends with three challenges.

1. Never Stop Teaching

What you do is so important, that you must never stop doing it! There are two reasons why you must never stop teaching.

First, people need to be taught.

All around you there are people who can benefit from your knowledge, wisdom, and experience. We need you to teach, because without people to guide us, we are lost. Teaching is not just an exercise that takes place in a classroom for 10 months every year. It is pouring what you have into the lives of those who need you to share it with them. That happens all the time, in all kinds of places, in every-day life.

James S. Hewett once published a story about a teacher who was assigned to visit children in a large city hospital. Routinely, she would call the regular teacher of a sick child to find out what the child needed to study while he or she was in the hospital. On one such call, the teacher learned that one of her young patients needed to learn about nouns and adverbs. When she went to the little boy’s room, she realized it was in the burn unit. No one had told her about the severity of the boy’s burns or the amount of pain he was in. She entered his room and introduced herself as the hospital teacher, explaining to him, “Your teacher asked me to help you with nouns and adverbs.” The next morning a nurse in the burn unit stopped the hospital teacher and asked her, “What did you say to that little boy?” Before the teacher could finish her concerned apologies, the nurse said, “You don’t understand. We’ve been very worried about him, but ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back, responding to treatment. It’s almost as though he decided to live.” The boy later explained that he had indeed given up hope until he saw the teacher. With joyful tears in his eyes, he explained it this way, “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?”

Education provides hope. People need to be taught.

Second, you need to teach.

Never stop teaching, because you need to teach. You are not a teacher because you have a certification, or because you get a paycheck, or even because a bell rings and students file into your classroom. You are a teacher because that’s who you are. God gave you the gifts, abilities, and opportunities to teach others. You teach because you are a teacher. You need to teach.

2. Never Stop Learning

My first challenge to educators is never stop teaching. The second one is just as important — never stop learning!

Henry H. Haskins has said, “The man who is too old to learn was probably always too old to learn.” Learning and living are directly linked. When we stop really learning, we stop really living. There is always something new to learn. Your primary subject or area of expertise is always changing and you can never learn it all. Beyond that, you want to learn new hobbies, stretch yourself to see new perspectives, and push yourself to discover new ideas. Will Durant is a philosopher who once pointed out, “Sixty years ago I knew everything; now I know nothing. Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.”

Meaningful teaching that has a lasting impact on the learners is much more than handing off information. It goes well beyond the explanation of principles or the completion of a curriculum. The best teaching takes place when the students receive from the overflow of what the teacher is learning. You want to offer your students the opportunity to drink from a flowing fountain rather than try to force them to drink from a stagnant pool.

Never stop teaching, never stop learning, and —

3. Never Stop

Even when life is hard, don’t give in, don’t give up. Don’t sit and quit! Keep living. Keep pushing. Like they used to say in the ’70s, keep on keeping on! Robert Orben advises, “If you’re ever tempted to give up, think of Brahms who took seven long years to compose his famous Lullaby. He kept falling asleep at the piano.”

Exercise three things every day: your body, your mind, and your will. It is that kind of exercise regimen that will keep you going.

When life is easy, run toward your next destination. When life is hard, keep walking in the right direction. When life seems impossible, take one more step. Even if one step is all you have left, never stop!

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