A Great Day to Be a Teacher

14 Sep

There are days when teaching can be a drag. Those are the days when students are falling asleep, looking at their phones or staring out the windows. Those are also the days when we are covered up in meetings, bogged down in assessment or listening to other teachers talk about how much of a drag their day has been.

Today is not one of those days. Today is a great day because of a student who stopped by my office to ask a question.

Last semester, he was in one of my classes and remembered something that I said. In fact, he did not just remember it. He thought about it all summer and wanted to talk about it more. He wanted a deeper understanding of the topic but could not come up with the right words to explain what was on his mind. However, it did not take long for me to realize what it was about.

I spent a day talking about the Scopes Monkey Trial. It is one of my favorite subjects for several reasons. First, it was an international story. Second, it happened in Tennessee. Third, it has been 90 years, and we still argue over the same issues. I go into a lot of detail to weave the story and make it interesting. However, it was not the trial that made this student think. It was what I said after the lecture.

By the way, this is John Scopes.john-scopes

On Scopes Trial day, I take the opportunity to say that we should learn as much as possible about our world even if we do not like what we learn. For example, the politics of today require conservative-minded people to think of liberal-minded people as tree-hugging communists. It also requires liberal-minded people to think of conservative-minded people as, according to one of our presidential candidates, a basket of deplorables. We do this because televisions tell us to do it. We do this because the people around us tell us to do it. We do this because our leaders tell us to do it.

Instead of letting those forces tell us how to think, we should learn about both sides and make the decision for ourselves. A liberal-minded person should research what conservative-minded people see for the world. A conservative-minded person should research what liberal-minded people see for the world. It does not mean that minds will be changed or that they will agree on anything. However, it means that they will have an understanding of what they are arguing against instead of wailing about something they do not know anything about. Who knows? Somebody might say, “You know, I do not agree with that other side, but that one idea is not half bad.”

In my mind, this is what a college education is all about. Obviously, students obtain the skills to get a job. However, they also learn that there are a lot of different aspects to the world, and we should understand as many of them as possible.

They should go to Biology and learn about evolution.

They should take a Religion class and learn about faith.

They should talk to that kid with a different background and learn about their life.

They should take Art and realize there is more to it than paint.

They should take History and learn about how we got to where we are.

Once they take those classes, they can decide if they think evolution happened or if the Bible is correct. They can decide if they like a painting or wonder why someone would pay money for it.

That is what the student who came to my office wanted to talk about. A few words at the end of a class made him think all summer and realize that there is more to this world than what is in our heads. Other people have ideas in their heads, and, before we talk about how stupid they are, we should learn why they think that way. If more people were like this student, then maybe we would not be so divided.

Yep, today is a great day to be a teacher.

11 Responses to “A Great Day to Be a Teacher”

  1. Marilyn Armstrong September 15, 2016 at 00:00 #

    Any time you make someone think a new thought, have a revelation, connect previously unrelated dots … that’s a win for ALL of us.

    “Inherit the Wind” is one of Garry’s top 5 favorite movies. Mine too.

    • Rick September 15, 2016 at 01:01 #

      I was proud of the student for taking the time to come by.

  2. sittingpugs September 15, 2016 at 01:18 #

    In my mind, this is what a college education is all about. Obviously, students obtain the skills to get a job. However, they also learn that there are a lot of different aspects to the world, and we should understand as many of them as possible.

    Being able to follow the reasoning behind and article a point of view that is psychologically, ideologically and even cosmologically opposed to your own is requires much patience, practice, and respect for differences. Why can’t/don’t more people allow differences to coexist? (societal taboos notwithstanding).

    It’s not that bothersome to attempt to follow someone’s reasoning, but to understand fully why they maintain it, one has to step much farther outside one’s own cognitive boundaries, which is where the patience is required.

    • sittingpugs September 15, 2016 at 01:19 #

      – article, + articulate ^J^

    • Rick September 15, 2016 at 01:37 #

      You are correct. This is what college is all about. We don’t always have to agree, but we should always be respectful.

  3. jcalberta September 16, 2016 at 15:53 #

    We speak of different philosophies. I understand Socialists/Liberals all too well. I have four brothers in that (sinking) boat. My oldest brother was a High School teacher. Intelligent and articulate. Anything that the mind can reason and rationalize must be True and Right, right?
    Wrong. A complete Spiritual ignoramus.
    A twain that shall never meet.

    • Rick September 18, 2016 at 13:40 #

      It sounds like the seed for some fired up family arguments.

      • jcalberta September 18, 2016 at 15:27 #

        I love my brothers, but they say ‘never to talk politics or religion’ – and we found the wisdom in that.

  4. Bantering Ram September 24, 2016 at 04:03 #

    This is what education is about as different from literacy.

  5. John S September 28, 2016 at 22:57 #

    Brilliant! I’m a governor at a school in London and we talk a lot about things like pupil-centred learning and independent thinking. But all of that takes input from the teachers. Asking the right questions of the pupils, encouraging questions from them. Sounds like you scored with the example in your blog.

    • Rick September 29, 2016 at 15:49 #

      Thanks. We try. It works more often than we realize.

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