Some years ago, 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. (2012 Gallup Poll on Public Education)
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. Matthew 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!