With the right spirit, you always get more than you give

gift wrap












Wise words from a school principal

Grade 8 graduation – lots of speeches, uncomfortable chairs and a few fleeting moments when my own grade 8 grad is on stage for the bestowing of the diploma. Who knew that a few thoughtful words by the school principal at the end of the ceremony would capture with absolutely perfect clarity the essence of what it is to teach (and learn)?

This principal was moving on to a position at a new school, so it was his final address and farewell. I don’t remember much of that final speech, with the exception of the last sentence:

“Most of all, I want to thank you students; you gave me so much more than I ever gave to you.”

I was struck by those words as a container for everything that’s important in teaching and learning. The stance of attention, humility, curiosity, openness, collaboration, gratitude and honouring the other.

Those words were a gift and an affirmation of the truest meaning of “teacher”.

So in the spirit of the holiday season I’m passing the gift along. Thanks Mr. Beatty.

  1. Your story highlights an important frame for understanding effective teaching and learning – the teacher/student relationship and its quality. Richard Tiberius has written in the past about teaching as a dialogue between students and teachers and he highlights the quality of this relationship as crucial. I have heard lots of teachers say what Mr. Beatty said but I am not always sure that they always meant it. I think students can tell when that statement is authentic. When it is, it takes teaching and learning to another place.

    How many other relationships in life are that sacred and important in shaping the people that we become?

  2. Thanks for commenting Ivan, and you capture the meaning beautifully! Not many educators stand at their school entrance every morning through rain, sun or snow to greet each student by name; and after Mr. Beatty’s speech there wasn’t a dry eye in the auditorium..he spoke from the heart and his students responded in kind. Authentic engagement is simple but not always easy – though some people make it look easy.

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