“…Kids have souls too that need nurturing, no matter how resistant or damaged they may be”

Quote by Karl Menninger

When Jim Stynes was asked about his school days in the June 2008 issue of iteach, the newsletter of the Victorian Institute of Teaching in Australia, he was asked the following question:
“What contributions do teachers make to society?” Stynes replied,
“Many help shape the minds and souls of our greatest students and prepare them for the challenges ahead. Unfortunately, some still don’t recognise that kids have souls too that need nurturing, no matter how resistant or damaged they may be.”

Reading this made me think of an article I had read earlier by The Revd Dr Timothy Gaden (Dean of the Theological School & College Chaplain, Trinity College, University of Melbourne) after he gave a presentation at my school. I was unable to see his presentation but was told that it was a “hot topic that had generated a great deal of spirited discussion”. Tim spoke about “the education of the whole person” and how, as teachers, we need to be mindful of the powerful role we play in nurturing our students. As it is something that I am quite passionate about, I eagerly read Tim’s article passed onto me by our School Chaplain. I am very grateful to Tim for allowing me to share his article and write about it in this blog.

Tim began his article by describing the teachers that left a lasting impression on him.

“I hardly remember anything that they taught me, but I remember them. And you will have your own memories of teachers who taught you. It is unlikely that you, any more than I, remember them because of what they taught. I bet that you remember them for how they taught, for who they were as people.”

He then quoted American Psychologist, Karl Menninger, “What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” (How I love this quote!)

I had not even reached the end of the first page, yet what I was reading was having a huge impact. I was thinking to myself, “Yes, I bet it was a spirited discussion!”

He spoke of teachers going to class, himself included, with a “big, fat syringe” of content that needs to be taught in order to cover the curriculum so that students can achieve good exam results.

If you are unable to read his 4.25 pages of brilliance, I would encourage you to think about where you fit in. Are you a teacher who is a mentor, who nurtures the learner? Or are you under pressure to focus on the content? Maybe you are a balance between the two? At this year’s ICTEV Conference, Tasmanian Educator, Margaret Meijers, said in her keynote address, “Teachers are still clinging on trying to be the experts.”

So what does all of this have to do with ICT in Education? To me, ICT provides the perfect opportunity to empty that “big, fat syringe” of content in exciting and engaging ways for our students. However, there are some instances where the right tools will also provide us with the opportunity to “educate the whole person” and connect on a level that can often not be achieved via traditional means.

I have seen a perfect example of this with Andrew Douch, a Biology teacher who has an amazing rapport with his students with an incredible ability to connect with them. Of course, in Andrew’s case, being a warm and friendly person certainly helps! However, his use of emerging technologies has helped him to connect with his students in a very special way. You only need to look at Andrew’s facebook page and read the endless posts from past and present students to see that he is admired by many.

I think at times we completely underestimate the impact we have on our students. Our influence may not become apparent for many, many years to come. And what an incredible vocation it is, to have the opportunity to shape people’s lives.

Quote by Bertrand Russell

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2 thoughts on ““…Kids have souls too that need nurturing, no matter how resistant or damaged they may be”

  1. Ohh that is nice of you to say Lucy! Honestly as I was reading your post, I was thinking “Yes, I really need to focus more on being that kind of teacher and less on the content I am injecting”. It is very true that students remember more of who we are than what we teach. When I think back to my school days, there are many teachers I remember who had quite an influence on me…but I remember very few of the actual lessons they taught me. I CAN remember some very significant lessons. Lessons where I learned something that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck…you know the kind? Where you understood something for the very first time and it felt like you had opened a door to a whole new room. But when I recall those lessons, almost invariably it was taught to me by someone who was teaching with such zeal that what they were sharing brought it to life. In other words it was not the content after-all, but the person who was sharing it. I think what matters for teachers is not the ability to bring information to the classroom (Wikipedia can do that better than we can) but the ability to help students see the importance of that content, to help them to make connections between this content and other things they know. To help them to understand it with their hearts as well as their minds, and make it part of who they are. And if a teacher can do that…the student will truly remember that content…but more likely they will remember the emotions and the feelings that they felt when they learned it – and the teacher who helped them feel that way. I decided to become a teacher in a moment like that. I can still see the look of passion on Mr Tipping’s face as he was explaining the role of thyroxine on cells with such love for his subject that one might have thought that he was understanding it, himself, for the very first time. I remember where I was sitting in the room when I thought “this is what I want to do with my life…I want to make students feel like I am feeling now”.

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