In 'shimmering voice'

What makes a true, lifelong teacher.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

art gunther III January 22, 2013 at 12:33 AM
Thank you, Tyler D. These essays as well as the 3,000 or so I penned as a Journal-News columnist, are actually weekly compositions for my sixth-grade English teacher. Torger Gram made writing -- and the desire to do it -- compelling.
Carmelo Carlo Greco January 22, 2013 at 01:28 PM
Dear Mr. Gunther, Thank you for you interesting and insightful column. As a columnist, you are also a teacher because those who read your column are affected in some way. If you are not "bold", nobody will be interested in reading your column. In teaching, if you are not "bold" nobody will be paying attention in what you want to teach, especially when a teacher deals with students going throught the turbulent teenage years. The first day of school, I used to tell my students, " I hope by the end of the year, you have learned as much from me as I have learned from you". At first, they looked puzzled, but not for too long. I am so happy to have recently re-discovered you through the miracle of science, the internet. Carmelo Carlo Greco, Retired teacher of Italian and Spanish, Tappan Zee H.S. (Now living in Novi, MI, near my children and grandchildre)
art gunther III January 22, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Dear Teacher Greco: You remain a legend at Tappan Zee High School, which is the highest accolade a teacher can receive, for it is a lifetime one. Your Day One advice to students should be a must for all of us as we interact with each other. We all can learn from others. As my wife's 100 percent Italian heritage relatives would say, "Sì, è audace in tutto".
Aidan January 23, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Master teachers exude wonder. Students of all sorts sense this ... and respond to it. Wrap that around passion and you've got a teacher who makes magic. Those are the teachers who hang around for a lifetime.
art gunther III January 23, 2013 at 04:00 PM
Yes, Aidan, and there are more such teachers than we bother to recognize. While every profession today could use quality improvement, the trend in the past two decades or so has been to blame teachers in general for society's faults. I would like to view the school record of the average blanket complainer and see just how much he or she put into the equation back when.


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