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Teaching: The Most Noble Profession

Teaching: The Most Noble Profession

Another school year begins.

Last week, I was speaking to a veteran teacher of 35 years; an award-winning teacher. She’d recently retired. I asked her if she missed teaching. She didn’t miss a beat. “Not at all. Not since No Child Left Behind.” For her, teaching had become untenable. Her special education students, often immigrant children without English competency, were taking standardized tests that she described as nothing less than cruel.

Perhaps if these standardized tests were helping our children, she wouldn’t be so jaded and discouraged; but the irony is that there is little evidence that regular national standardized tests improve educational outcomes and much evidence that other educational approaches are far more successful.

It is a scary thing to imagine that we are driving out the very best teachers like her. It is deeply worrisome that veteran teachers are discouraging their own children from becoming professional teachers. It is truly terrifying that the Texas Republican Platform states:

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

One can only imagine the sorts of teachers who will remain if Texas gets its way. Or the future in store for all of us when the children who’ve been taught to memorize, regurgitate and obey – but not think – grow up and take upon themselves the roles of professionals and citizens.

If we drive creative and brilliant minds away from teaching, the situation for our future really does become bleak. So this is a plea for those who care about our future; who are committed to deep, critical, and careful thought; who want to impart such skills to the next generation, and who love young people: please, please teach.

Above all else, education is the key to a better world. There is little hope that we will solve our pressing challenges without an educated populace that thinks deeply and innovatively to solve problems, and if those drawn to teaching stop (or never start) preparing those thinkers and change agents of the future, then who will do this great work? My hope is that teachers will fight with all their heart and soul to teach with their passion intact no matter what systems around them seem intractable; no matter what politicians demand; no matter how inadequate their salary; and no matter what the media dishes out. We need such teachers – our future needs them – now more than ever.

In college, a friend in medical school told me that he thought that medicine was the most noble profession. It was a strange statement, really, and quite provocative. I wondered at the time, can any profession be the most noble? I ruminated on it for a long time, and now, 30 years later, I feel ready to respond. If asked to name the most noble profession, I would not hesitate to say teaching.

Teachers are the agents of the future. Will our world be populated by people ready and able to meet that future as creative and critical thinkers; as wise, compassionate and knowledgeable citizens; as skilled and motivated solutionaries within their professions? The answer to this question lies with teachers. More than any other profession, teaching has the power to create a healthy, just and peaceful world (or not). It has the ability to seed our society with informed, caring and engaged citizens (or not). It has the capacity to inspire lifelong learning and a passion for knowledge, understanding, and innovation (or not). Is there anything more important than this?

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Zoe Weil is the president of the Institute for Humane Education, which offers the only graduate programs in comprehensive humane education, as well as online courses, workshops, and dynamic resources. She is the author of Nautilus silver medal winner Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life; Above All, Be Kind; The Power and Promise of Humane Education, and Moonbeam gold medal winner Claude and Medea, about middle school students who become activists. She has given a TEDx talk on humane education and blogs. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @ZoeWeil.

 

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Image courtesy of nightthree via Creative Commons.

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65 comments

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5:35AM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Thank you Zoe, for Sharing this!

1:21PM PDT on Oct 16, 2012

Bonjour,

Thank you very much for this article.

The future of our planet will one day rest in the hands of our children. Then the quality of education is vital.

Learning "how to learn" are in the hands of teachers. The teacher could help the student to use the correct method of "how to learn".

For me, I have studied "how to learn" in reading books for L. Ron Hubbard.

Knowing this technology "how to learn" changes the life. I used it each day with children, teens and adults.

Yes, you are right. Teachin is the best noble profession. Let's built a better world !

2:21PM PDT on Oct 13, 2012

I love this article. I have had some very truly amazing teachers.

9:49PM PDT on Sep 6, 2012

I thought nursing is the most noble, but I got the title wrong. I think it is most trusted. Anyway, the last paragraph makes me believe that teaching may very well be the most noble. I couldn't be a nurse if I didn't have a teacher, right? And a little bit of nursing involves teaching. As long as the teacher has the absolute love of education in their heart, I think the children/students will fill that. Do away with all these silly regulations so the REAL teachers can teach.

3:15AM PDT on Sep 5, 2012

Yes, I agree with this article. My sister works with special needs children and her husband has teached at a high school for over 30 years. I beleive that teachers are under paid as well. They are our childrens' future! Thx for this article!!

5:45PM PDT on Sep 3, 2012

Most teachers are good. Their work is difficult, trying to teach a bunch of kids with varying dispositions, and the problems they bring to school with them, and have enough time to help the better behaved kids. They deserve better pay, and the respect they deserve. Teachers used to get respect, and were thought well of. That is before we got the loony tea party R's in office. They respect nothing and no one.

6:26PM PDT on Sep 2, 2012

Teachers have THE most important job of all and they should be paid TOP dollar. Tax the rich so we can pay teachers high salaries and motivate the best and brightest to take on the MOST important career of all. Teachers educate our future leaders and citizens.

6:26PM PDT on Sep 2, 2012

Teachers have THE most important job of all and they should be paid TOP dollar. Tax the rich so we can pay teachers high salaries and motivate the best and brightest to take on the MOST important career of all. Teachers educate our future leaders and citizens.

12:41PM PDT on Sep 2, 2012

Teaching is probably one of the most important jobs that our society offers. What they say and do can effect a child's entire life.

12:36PM PDT on Sep 2, 2012

I am now a substitute teacher. I always tried to teach my children to reason. But I never tried to teach them to not respect their parents. I needed the parents to help me teach. There is a difference between teaching children to look for flaws in arguments and understand rules of discussions. Then going up and saying your parents are wrong in their religious views. When questions were asked my answer was you need to look at both sides and examine the evidence yourself and not just take a person’s word without checking. I always used politicians as the people students need to truly listen to and try to get at what they are really saying and what their purpose is.
I tried to get my students to respect all people and treat all people with kindness no matter what they believed. I believe my job was to train children to be good citizens and to think and reason. Which to me is not incompatible with a belief in GOD, but does make it where they do not let slick salespeople dupe them.

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