Saturday, August 25, 2007

As a new school year begins - words to inspire...

I always enjoy reading quotes (excellent bathroom reading), particularly those that challenge and provoke (kind of like teaching!). I also admire the brilliance of those who can speak volumes in the fewest possible number of words.

Here are a few I found with my own interpretations as well as a couple that have been guiding principles in my career. Some are loosely paraphrased from memory, so if you know the original, please share...

Let's start with some humor, although you may not find it so.

(Bumper sticker) If you can read this, thank a teacher.
My addition : Never follow too closely. (there's a double meaning there!)

(Seen on a T Shirt): 3/4 of all students don't understand fractions; the other half don't like them.
(This is not the original which I can't quite recall - but the message is the same)

Now onto more serious thoughts...

An understanding heart is everything in a teacher....One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. [Carl Jung]
My thoughts: What did a wise teacher once say to me -- Dave, just remember, you don't teach math, you teach children.

Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater.
My thoughts: I almost want to make another joke about fractions but this truism should stand alone. I never thought of myself as a great performer but in reality I gave 5x5x40x35 performances, some of which were definitely better than others! Ever notice how some former teachers become stand up comics...

Those who are incapable of teaching young minds to reason, pretend that it is impossible. The truth is, they are fonder of making their pupils talk well than think well and much the greater number are better qualified to give praise to a ready memory than a sound judgment.
[Oliver Goldsmith]
My thoughts: This should provoke some strong feelings. I've asked many teachers why they don't ask more probing questions in a lesson. I often get the following type of reaction, "I tried, but I wind up having to answer the questions myself, so what's the point." Perhaps, it's enough to ask the questions... the next quote says it better...

To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching. [Henry Adams]

When the National Science Foundation asked the "breakthrough" scientists what they felt was the most favorable factor in their education, the answer was almost uniformly, "intimate association with a great, inspiring teacher." [R. Buckminster Fuller]
My thoughts: None needed

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
My thoughts: I guess I was mediocre, good and superior in my career. I'll leave it to others to judge how great I was.

More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given. [Bertrand Russell]
My thoughts: I believe they work hand in hand. It would be hypocritical of me to downplay the importance of what is being taught.

And last but not least, the oft-quoted but still the most meaningful for me...

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. [Henry Adams]

I was hoping not to get melancholy about not starting a new school year with the rest of you but these quotes are having an effect on me. Have a wonderful year as you touch another group of lives. Please share your favorite quotes here with all of us.


Tony said...

I'll be starting the school year as a student this time around, but your post reminded me why I'm doing it. In three years, give or take, I'll be facing down a classroom full of kids, and sometimes it's bound to get ugly. I can't wait.

meeyauw said...

I should probably print these things out for my desk for those moments (more and more frequent) when I worry about AYP and how it seems that *I* will be personally responsible for the failure of our whole district.

These thoughts should calm me down.

jonathan said...

Not exactly right for this list, but why not? There are 10 kinds of people, those who understand binary and those who don't.

Dave Marain said...

thanks tony & meeyauw --
I'm glad you got past the lame jokes at the top!

jonathan-- yours definitely belongs 'at the top' since it's actually funny compared to the ones I picked! Of course there will probably be only 100 people who will appreciate it...

Denise said...

"I also admire the brilliance of those who can speak volumes in the fewest possible number of words."

Me, too! I love quotations and make them a regular part of my blog. I think I'm overdue for posting some, since I haven't been having to come up with blackboard quotes over the summer. Time to start looking for them again. I go back and forth between inspiring quotes and silly ones---I think I'll use your fractions joke for the latter.

Jonathan's quote has been among my top 1010 favorite math jokes since my son brought it home from his college IT class (and made me spit my coffee across the kitchen).

mathmom said...

I'll add a few:

Teaching is the highest form of understanding.

Effective teaching may be the hardest job there is.
William Glasser

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.
"Chinese proverb"

It's not what is poured into a student that counts, but what is planted.
Linda Conway

A mind is a fire to be kindled, not a vessel to be filled.

On a totally separate note, I put up a description of an activity I plan to do with a young middle school group on my blog, and I'd love comments from the wonderful folks here. (Sorry for the blatant plug!)

Jackie said...

One of my favorites is from David Hilbert

" A mathematical problem should be difficult so as to entice us, yet not be completely inaccessible, lest it mock our efforts."

This helps to remind me to challenge my students, yet to do so at an appropriate level.

Dave Marain said...

mathmom, jackie--
I knew I would get some great ones from you and, yes, jonathan's binary humor is hysterical!
There are websites I've come across (I'll post a link when I find a really good one) that have a daily math quotation and a bank of these but one can always add to the list. Think we'd make a fortune putting the best ones on T-shirts and selling them; then again, I think some company already does that!
Actually, I feel like selecting a few of these and rotating them on my blog every few days.

Words provoke thought and they do make a difference - they help us maintain perspective and survive all of the stuff we never thought was part of teaching when we got into the profession (meeyauw captured it well). By the way, let's start a contest for the best meaning of the acronym, AYP. I'm sure there's enough creativity out there to make this fun (and clean of course!).
I'll start it with a weak attempt:
AYP = Another Yearly Pain

mathmom said...

Take a peek over here for a very cute Abbot and Costello clip dedicated to math teachers. :)

Dave Marain said...

Uh oh, mathmom--
talk about revealing one's age!
I not only recognize this hysterical video (as in I saw the original!), I've used this routine many times in my classes and with parents at Back to School Night. When confronted with this Abbott and Costello 'logic' in rapid-fire fashion, many pause and actually have to think about what's wrong with it! IMHO, it's much more than humor - it's about real math concepts and whoever wrote this routine definitely knew what she was doing! One could teach a whole lesson around it to preservice teachers, never mind students! Thanks for reminding me of this. I actually believe there was another similar routine that was equally profound but I can't recall it.

mathmom said...

IMHO, it's much more than humor - it's about real math concepts and whoever wrote this routine definitely knew what she was doing!

Agreed. I thought it was very clever!