Teaching: A Call to Greatness Teaching is painful, continual and difficult work
to be done by kindness, by watching, by warning, by precept, and by praise,
but above all by example.
This course is still under development. I think the topic is an important one.
This could may be offered as a regular course, or through Extended Education.
The teacher is a hero/heroine in all cultures because he/she helps people to live truly actualized human lives--by example, by asking good questions, by providing templates in parables, by caring for persons and encouraging their development. A call to teaching is a call to greatness. Can we become great teachers? Let's discuss it!
Selected Readings from
Saints and Virtues--The Chapter on Confucius
Campbell, Joseph, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Fromm, Erich. The Art of Loving
Merton, Thomas, The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers
Rubin, J. Artistry in Teaching
Rubin, J. An Apple for My Teacher
Weisel, Ellie, Tongues of Fire
The Death of Socrates
The Tao Te Ching
The Life of the Buddha
The Gospels: Parables of Jesus
Stories about the Zen Masters
Identify concerns most important to the students in their own lives. Discuss these concerns and how they relate to our present curricula. (In my experience with doing this with students, none of the concerns (family, philosophy of life, dealing with life's problems, religion, relationships with others, personal goals) are even mentioned in current curricula.) Should teachers address these concerns? How can this be done?
Have You Known a Great Teacher?
Students will describe and discuss the best teachers that they have known. What characteristics did these teachers have? Are there core characteristics that they share? How do they express these characteristics? Can we ourselves grow in these areas? Do we want to? How important are different personal teaching styles?
Who are the Most Influential Persons in History?
Teachers, of course! Rabbis, Zen Masters, Sufi Mystics, Confucius, Lao Tsu, The Buddha, Socrates, Jesus, Mohammed -- these persons have had more influence on the day to day lives of ordinary people than any other historical persons. What did these teachers do? What do they have in common? What did they teach? How does this relate to our own teaching, and to teaching subject matter?
What Methods Do the Great Teachers Use?
making students think
Socrates and questioning
Zen masters and koans
parables as templates
helping students make good choices
starting with what the student knows
application: go and do likewise
length and depth of lessons
making knowledge memorable and portable
dealing with individual differences
Does the success of these methods suggest changes that we could make in our own teaching?
Do Great Teachers Make their Students More Alike or More Different? In What Ways?
How do great teachers balance the development of individuality with the need to foster and sustain community? What do they teach by personal example? Is there value in the role of the hermit? The wandering Holy Man? Cloistered monks and nuns? Martyrs? Artists?
Dare We Aspire to Greatness as Teachers?
Share thoughts discovered through writing the assigned paper.
Share your musings about the following questions in a paper roughly fifteen pages in length. This paper is assigned for you to write for yourself (although I know I will enjoy reading it). Explore your own thoughts, feelings, doubts, and dreams. Relax and ramble a little. What is our profession really all about?
Can we aspire to greatness as teachers? Should we? Dare we? Do we dare to teach if we don't aspire to greatness? Is greatness too difficult a goal? Is "competent" really good enough? Can we incorporate the examples of great teachers in our own teaching?
Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth: Program 1: The Hero's Adventure
Discuss the hero's role and how it applies to teaching. Can every person become "the hero of his/her own life?" Can we facilitate this for our students? Should we?
Discuss the teacher's responsibility to determine curriculum and to enlarge the students' exposure to realities outside of their own lives. How does this relate to our own teaching in our multicultural schools? What constitutes a limited environment? A deprived environment? What constitutes enrichment?
Stand and Deliver
Discuss the influence of the teacher's faith in the capabilities of the students. Is confrontation with authority inevitable? How far should we be willing to go for our students? Is there a limit? How do we determine where it is?
The Dead Poet's Society
Discuss the responsibility of the teacher to further societal (and parental) goals versus the responsibility of the teacher to encourage personal actualization. When should students be encouraged to think for themselves? To whom is the teacher ultimately responsible?
To Sir With Love
Discuss the role of respect in teaching, especially respect of the teacher for the students. How important is respect? How can this be expressed?
The Miracle Worker
associated reading: Plato: Allegory of the Cave
After seeing the video, discuss how the teacher's greater knowledge affects the student/teacher relationship. What sorts of decisions must teachers make for students? What sorts of guidelines must teachers heed?
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© Elizabeth Anne Viau, 1996. This material may be used freely for instructional purposes but not sold for a price beyond the cost of reproduction. Please e-mail me at email@example.com if you use this material. I'd be interested to know how it works for you!