Life lessons from 5 top teachers

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Teaching is a profession full of passion, dedication and drive. It asks for only the best from the best. But the best teachers also know it’s vital to look after their own health and wellbeing. After all, happy teachers are better teachers. That’s why some of history’s most renowned educators were also the most chilled-out. Let’s discover their lessons for life.

Embrace the joy

Best known for his posthumously published Pensées – Thoughts – Joseph Joubert shared many fabulous musings on education.

He knew moments in teaching are precious not only to students but also their teachers. Education is all about imparting knowledge and the skills to make this work in the real world. But for Joubert education was also about understanding how learning transforms lives. His primary message – “To teach is to learn twice over!” – is all about appreciating moments of breakthrough in teaching and remaining present in them.

Continually embracing this joy in the teaching process can bring not only immense job satisfaction but a sense of personal wellbeing for teachers.

Believe in yourself

At the age of 15, Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for her work as an education activitist in Pakistan. Her successful fight for life inspired two million people to sign a right-to-education petition. This became her country’s first Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill.

Malala went on to become a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and her work as a global advocate for education for women and children continues to offer inspiration to all who value teaching.

Not surprisingly for someone who’s won against such odds, she also has a powerful, life-affirming message for teachers. For anyone who may be doubting themselves, find new energy and confidence in her words: “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.”

Carpe diem!

He may have been a fictional character played by Robin Williams in a movie, but John Keating was an educational tour de force.

His teaching style was unorthodox, asking his students of English to immerse themselves in literature, not just read it. This experiential teaching method involved role-playing, improvisation and, of course, lots of laughter

Above all, Mr Keating recognised the importance of living for the moment: carpe diem! Seize the day!

It’s a life lesson teachers can adopt not only for their professional outlook but themselves. Outside of the classroom, seize the chance to enjoy life and take time out for yourself.

Learn to let go

It’s estimated there are around 30,000 schools worldwide that utilise the Montessori Method. Its primary methodology is to respect the independence of spirit and natural development.

This was inspired by Mama Montessori, an education leader who used her medical training as a doctor to work with mentally disabled children in Italy.

Her message was that the greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say: ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’

While this is a source of inspiration and guide to many in education, it’s also a valuable life lesson in itself. Teachers: learn to let go and enjoy your success.

Carry on regardless

‘What goes up must come down’ is Sir Isaac Newton’s most famous quote. His insight into gravity laid the groundwork for many teachers of Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy, Mechanics and even Theology.

Despite facing huge challenges due to the fact his research conflicted with contemporary religious teaching, Sir Isaac carried on regardless. He knew self-belief and perseverance could win the day.

A not so famous quote from Sir Isaac is: “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”

His greatest life lesson, then, is to block out the noise. Instead, allow yourself the space and time to simplify things, to focus on the teaching you know works best and makes you happiest.

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