Slow down.

That’s right, the quickest way to become a better teacher is to slow down.

How so?

Gallup asked “What attribute do Americans find most compelling in the teacher they have identified as having the greatest impact on their lives?”

Over 40% of Americans describe the teacher who had the most positive influence in their lives with words such as caring, compassionate, motivating, and inspiring; while just 17% of Americans thought  intelligent, knowledgeable, persistent, hard-working, and demanding were words that describe the teacher who had the strongest influence on them.

Caring and compassionate! Quite the caricature-smasher isn’t it.

Of course, there has to be content as well; we don’t want teachers just to cuddle the little darlings all day. But I must admit, although my own elementary and high school education was a nightmare in many ways, the two teachers who do stand out in my mind, one man and one woman, were exactly as described in this poll.

They were willing to stop teaching and start talking. They would sometimes stop in the corridor and chat. In the classroom, they were firm but warm and friendly. They often encouraged with words of praise and appreciation. They varied teaching and assessment methods so that everyone’s gifts could shine rather than just the best memorizers. They were more concerned with what we learned than with what they taught. Although, their lessons didn’t seem to be so full of facts and figures, I learned far more from them than in all the other classes put together.

Above all, they just seemed to have more time for students. And there’s nothing that communicates care and compassion better than time. To this day, whenever I think of them, I am inspired and motivated to be less focused on transferring data and much more on touching hearts.

All this perfectly fits what we know about the greatest teacher that ever lived:

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matt. 11:29).

His appeal for students was based on gentleness and humility not qualifications or results. His teaching methods were certainly not exactly the most “efficient”; but were they supremely effective and compelling!

  • Jon Stallings

    Great point David. As one who tends to be very task oriented I have to constantly remind myself to slow down and the people are more important than the task at hand.

    • David Murray

      I think we’re very alike, John! I was quite convicted by this article.

  • Jason Pope

    I teach adult Sunday school and yes, I sometimes find myself focusing so much on preparation and study that I forget about people. Meaningful relationships is where real teaching happens.

  • J.T. Smith

    Motivational is such an adjective for a teacher to strive for. No amount of knowledge spewed at a child will change their life if they aren’t motivated to do something with it.

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