The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

A Better Way to Be A Teacher

on February 23, 2019

A recent article in the New York Times really surprised me. In reading that newspaper regularly for many years I have become used to long factual articles that inform me, but also bore me with so many details delivered without emotion. This time there were very personal opinions and lots of emotion. I really liked it.

Unexpectedly, David Brooks, a regular writer for the Times, who ordinarily deals with serious government matters, wrote about his own emotional experience and what it taught him about quality education.

One day while teaching a class at Yale University, Brooks told his students that he wouldn’t be able to meet with any of them that afternoon because a friend was coming to help him with a personal problem.

Because he had been very unemotional in that announcement, Brooks thought his students wouldn’t fret about missing a meeting or be concerned about his wellbeing. But unfortunately several students had gotten a different message than he intended. Because they thought Brooks was facing a serious problem, several of them sent written messages to him that evening expressing their sympathy and support.

That incident had a strong effect on Brooks, making him think differently about teacher/student relationships. He decided that a positive connection between a teacher and his students was the foundation of strong learning. He also decided that the key job of a teacher was to give students new things to like, such as an exciting field of study and some assistance when they were struggling.

Brooks ended his self reflection by referring to the recent changes made in many schools, and the fact that the Aspen Institute had recently published a national report titled “From a Nation at Risk to a National at Hope” He also mentioned that many schools no longer started academic instruction in the first week of school. Instead, through games and other group activities students got to know one another.

If you are wondering why I chose to write about Brook’s article, it was because it was so uncharacteristic of those usually on that Times page, especially ones by him. That article also reminded me of my own experiences as a teacher many years ago. Teaching was tough for me at the beginning, but it softened up when I started to behave like a grownup who cared.

One response to “A Better Way to Be A Teacher

  1. Thanks, Joanne. It’s nice to read Brooks’ learning about teaching. Perhaps he will learn even more and write more about it. Please consider letting him know you used his piece. BTW, you are one of my heroes.


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