More Who, Less
by Professor Joe Martin
One of best lessons I ever learned in my early years of teaching was
to “focus on WHO we teach, not just WHAT we teach.”
To some I
know this concept sounds somewhat foreign, because ever since we were in college
(preparing to be a teacher), subject mastery has always been the primary focus.
Very few classes prepared us for unruly children, immature middle schoolers, or
disrespectful teenagers. Yes, I admit, as a former professor, the higher education
system needs to be revamped. We’ve failed to adequately prepare our teachers for
our wonderful profession.
However, in spite of the inadequacies in the
system, I try to teach incoming teachers (including seasoned ones) the aforementioned
philosophy – “It’s not just about WHAT we teach, but rather WHO we
teach.” Now don’t get me wrong, WHAT we teach is vitally important
to our students’ success, as well as our school’s success. But sacrificing
the WHO for the WHAT is just plain criminal. I’m sure you’ve heard the
saying, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Well, I would go even a step farther by saying, students also need to know WHY you care.
With the increased emphasis on standardized test scores, students are starting to
be treated more like “things” rather than human beings. And this has to
stop. I believe one of the many reasons teachers struggle to stay motivated in the
classroom is because the system seems to reward and acknowledge “test performance”
more so than “true passion.”
I truly believe the success I’ve
been able to enjoy with my students (from the gifted to the incarcerated – I’ve
worked with them all) is largely due to the fact that I teach the student, not the
subject. Yes, I want my students to learn the material, but more importantly, I want
them to know they’re loved, even if they don’t learn the material or pass
“a test.” I know that may be hard for some educators to swallow, but I know
15 years from now, nobody will remember my students’ test scores, but my students
WILL remember me.
So start asking yourself, “Do you care more about
your students succeeding in school or in life?” I’ll let you decide what you
think the right answer SHOULD be. But remember, nobody cares how much you know, until
they know how much you care.” So teach with passion, and remember to practice what
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