A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action,
for one single good poem, accomplishes more than he or she
who fills our memory with rows on rows of natural objects,
classified with name and form.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
* * * * *
It's a shame that most teachers I know have forgotten this concept. It usually isn't their fault--they become involved in schools or school systems that value numbers. Test scores, attendance figures, grades and grade averages--these have become the important indicators of whether a teacher is effective or not. Whenever the system becomes more important than the individual, then individuals suffer.
Teachers aren't nearly as able to look at their students as human beings--thinking, caring, feeling human beings--as they should be. They have to spend so much time on lesson plans and changing curricula and grading and classroom management that they often aren't able to focus on being a human being who teaches other human beings. In addition, "arousing feelings" isn't a concept that's all that valued, for feelings aren't quantifiable. Besides, learning about facts and figures and information is valuable; it's just that its value is overrated.
All that said, we know that the teachers tend to do the best job they can in their situations, and most of them try very hard to be valuable influences in the lives of their students. But we can help them. Not all teaching takes place in the classroom, and not all teachers are hired by schools to teach entire classrooms full of students.
We definitely have the ability to be teachers ourselves. We may not be qualified to teach algebra, but we certainly can read a poem to a child (or even a friend!) and discuss what it might mean to us. We can go through a book on animals, looking at amazing pictures, learning ourselves by reading captions as we "teach" someone else. We can listen carefully as someone explains his or her ideas, helping that person to clarify those ideas. There are many, many "teaching moments" in every day, and if we keep our eyes and ears open, we can recognize them and use them for all that they're worth. And the more we do it, the more we learn ourselves, and the better we get at it.
The important lessons in life rarely happen in a classroom. But if we step back and think that we can't teach because we're not "teachers," then we lose many opportunities to do many wonderful things. And if we don't teach because we assume that someone else will, then everyone loses.