January 21, 2013
By Arthur H. Gunther III
Be bold with your children, your grandkids, the youngsters you meet and greet. Give them shimmering voice and tell them that it is not only all right to be different, that they deliberately ought to follow their particular bent.
It may take a lifetime to find that voice, but it is in the quest that individual “genius” is developed, that contentment is reachable, that progress is made for the person and then the world. Cookie cutting is predictable, so safe, but no one gets to the moon with ordinariness. And there are so many moons to jump over in our century, including personal moons.
There is so much emphasis these days on formal schooling, “core curriculum” requirements from state education panels, teacher evaluation schemes, but so very little on what has always been the first rule of learning: involvement.
I am not a teacher, though married to a retired one, the father of a practicing fellow and the father in law of one -- soon, probably -- to be excessed, And I have had more than a handful of masters who continue to have lifetime influence. They had in common two impossible-to-teach yet acquired skills: insight and patience.
Every child has a door that must be opened if the engine is to start and purr. No curricula nor state test can measure the ability of the good, even great teacher to find the door’s key, to care enough in the first place to look for it, let alone turn the lock, let alone walk through the door and tarry a while. Maybe a long while. Insight and patience is the paint job on the door, and the color scheme continues inside.
The good, even great teacher opens thousands of doors in his teaching lifetime, and his or her shimmering voice in fine-tuned insight is heard by some students at least. Even the most difficult of kids have ears ready to hear such voice, but how many are willing to speak to them -- teachers, parents, friends, society?
The debates will continue over teacher salaries (in some areas of the nation almost minimum wage, in others “high” but way less than that for many other professionals); over work load (most teachers take home work to do at night); over qualification (how is that accurately measured in most jobs?). All the talk is necessary to one extent or another.
Yet in the beginning, as in the end, the individual child, proclaimed such a wonder at birth, serenaded with music as an infant, read books to as a youngster, coddled over, so very protected in the first school years, must of necessity find his or her voice and seize the day on it. The best teacher, even the great one, offers continual insight and steadfast patience as a guide, even after sending the student on his way. There is no test for that sort of instructor.
The writer is a retired newspaperman.