It seems appropriate that this post falls on Labor Day, because it’s about teachers – in my view, one of the most important and noble professions of all. More than work, it’s a calling.
The new school year is either underway or, depending on where you live, about to start. In either case, young minds are gearing up for another year of learning. There’s an ongoing debate about whether teachers should concentrate on imparting information and knowledge necessary for their students to excel on standardized tests. I don’t think so.
I understand the value of formalized testing to gauge an overall student population’s grasp of content within particular fields of study. But preparing students to produce the right answers on standardized tests isn’t the only measure of effective teaching. In fact, they may have succeeded in accumulating information without truly learning much at all.
As I reflect on my own educational career, I’m reminded about how influential certain teachers were in my life and how pivotal their skills – and wise comments – were in shaping my career. There was my fourth grade teacher who told my mother I was “college material,” implanting an educational vision in the mind of a young boy from a family where no one had ever attended college.
Then there was my freshman English instructor in college who identified my writing potential and encouraged me in various ways to pursue the craft. And there was the journalism professor in my first news reporting class that taught not only the methodology, but also the joy of taking on challenging interviews or news events and writing in ways that capture the reader’s attention.
Sadly, the value and potential impact of skilled and dedicated teachers is often overlooked or underestimated by society. And it’s equally sad not all teachers recognize what a special stewardship role they’ve been given in shaping young minds and motivating young thinkers.
In reality, a teacher can have as much – or more – impact on the life of a young person than some parents, especially for those that get to spend little time with their parents. Such an opportunity, and responsibility, should be regarded with awe, fear and trembling. But also with honor and pride.
The notion that teaching is only providing academic material, to be regurgitated on an exam or standardized testing instrument, is a travesty. Information and knowledge are part of it, without question, but the best teachers communicate a passion, a contagious love for their subjects that can infect their students.
I like what the Bible says about teaching – and the role of teachers. For instance, in 2 Timothy 2:2 the apostle Paul wrote to his “student,” Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others.” While Paul was writing about spiritual truth – eternal verities – the principle applies regardless of the type of teaching.
Elsewhere the apostle wrote, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice…” (Philippians 4:8). He understood the importance of not only imparting knowledge and truth, but also serving as a good example, modeling what he was teaching. Modern-day teachers aspiring to have a long-lasting, positive impact on their students would be wise to take that to heart.
But this doesn’t take parents off the hook. Ideally, parents take seriously their God-given responsibility to teach their children in every way, not only through verbal instruction but also by demonstrating the way to live successfully through their own lives. As Deuteronomy 6:6-7 states, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress these on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
In other words, “teachable moments” are all around us, every minute of the day, whether we’re parents raising our children or professional teachers, instructors and professors. Teaching, whatever the setting, is truly an important, noble calling. One we should never take lightly.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.