“In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for 20 years.” — Jacques Barzun.
Did teachers have an impact on your life? Most people can identify a teacher or teachers who helped make them what they are today. Many of our lives would not be as rich and full without the fair-minded guidance, patience, discipline, or caring and nurturing of a teacher. Their sage advice rings in our ears for decades and supports and reinforces us in easy as well as difficult times.
The significance of teachers may not be felt for years. The relationship between student and teacher cannot always be easily assessed, and may not demonstrate itself in multiple-choice tests. It goes far beyond performance on metrical ‘data’ and assessments.
Tests fade into obscurity but the intangibles of a significant relationship with a teacher live forever. They are the bonds and times we recall when we reflect on who we are and how we got here.
Children have to work through the developmental stages of growth, face the socioeconomic realities of their families, try to find their place in the world and confront their insecurities and uncertainties. Teachers are critical anchors that help them, support them, and provide direction.
Teaching is not a robotic act of engineering – it is much more complicated. The genuine human connection between two people cannot be manufactured simply by following a formula or process. It rests in the energy, empathy, compassion, patience, and passion that allow students to invest in teachers’ care, knowledge, and guidance. That relationship is unique. One teacher may be significant to one child, but may not have the same affect on others because children differ and significant relationships are very individualized.
We all know children who didn’t do well on tests or other academic measures because of their development, social and emotional needs, or intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. But years later, they got advanced degrees, became entrepreneurs, or found themselves as lawyers, physicians, entertainers, business owners, and teachers.
In reality, there are no quick fixes to academic achievement. Reliance on short-term assessments like standardized tests may actually do tremendous damage to children whose potential can only be unlocked over time. Children are not receptacles of facts and figures. They are individuals with potential and talent that become tangible because of the genuine relationship with a teacher and the intangible connection between them.
As Einstein said, “it is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge”. The art of teaching involves creating a relationship with students that: inspires students to not settle for anything but their best, recognizes that talent and creativity take time to develop, provides compassionate and patient support, and creates a caring, demanding, and safe environment to try, fail, and succeed. The art of teaching cannot be measured simplistically. It actually sets the stage for the successful application of the science of teaching.
The awakening of motivation, creativity and expression may not take place for years. But without that significant relationship with a teacher, it may not take place at all.