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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 05/08/2012

Thoughts on teachers — from Socrates to Lady Gaga

Today is National Teacher Day, part of Teacher Appreciation Week, an annual moment to heap praise on teachers in a country that has spent the rest of the past year doing pretty much the opposite.

Morale has been plummeted in recent years among most of the approximate 3,232,800 teachers in K-12 public schools, according to recent polls. This is a result in large part of the actions of state legislatures that have passed laws end teacher tenure, to make teacher evaluation partly dependent on student standardized test scores, and to take other actions that many teachers see as an assault on their profession.

In the spirit of the day, here are some funny, serious and perhaps even profound thoughts on teachers.

Modern cynics and skeptics see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing. — President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)

Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task. — Haim Ginott (1922-1973), teacher and psychologist

Teachers are the only professionals who have to respond to bells every forty-five minutes and come out fighting. — Frank McCourt (1930-2009), teacher and author

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. — Jacques Martin Barzun (born 1907), historian

Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers. — attributed to Socrates (469 BC - 399 BC)

I never did very well in math — I could never seem to persuade the teacher that I hadn't meant my answers literally. — Calvin Trillin (born 1935), writer, humorist



I don't learn so good, no matter how good the teacher is. — Warren Zevon 1947-2003, musician

There is no recipe to be a great teacher, that's what is unique about them. Robert Sternberg (born 1949), psychologist and university provost

I had a terrible education. I attended a school for emotionally disturbed teachers. — Woody Allen (born 1935), filmmaker, writer, comedian

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. — Henry Adams (1838-1918), author and historian

I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework. — Lily Tomlin (born 1939), comedian, actress and writer, speaking in the character of the young “Edith Ann”

My physics teacher, Thomas Miner was particularly gifted. To this day, I remember how he introduced the subject of physics. He told us we were going to learn how to deal with very simple questions such as how a body falls due to the acceleration of gravity. — Steven Chu (born 1948), Secretary of Energy and physicist

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose. Bill Gates (born 1955), businessman and philanthropist

Smartness runs in my family. When I went to school I was so smart my teacher was in my class for five years. Gracie Allen (1895-1964), comedian

I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit. John Steinbeck (1902-1968), author

Only one person in a million becomes enlightened without a teacher's help. — Bodhidharma (5th/6th century CE) , Buddhist monk

I got into acting because my teachers kept nudging me into it. The power a teacher has to influence someone is so great. I can't think of a profession I have more respect for. — Jon Hamm (born 1971), actor

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. William A. Ward (1921–1994), writer

I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well. Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)

The self taught man seldom knows anything accurately, and he does not know a tenth as much as he could have known if he had worked under teachers. Mark Twain (1835-1910)

I have long enjoyed the friendship and companionship of Republicans because I am by instinct a teacher, and I would like to teach them something. — U.S. President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)

As long as teachers give tests, there will always be prayer in schools.Unknown

Often when I am reading a good book, I stop and thank my teacher. That is, I used to, until she got an unlisted number. — Unknown

My father's a preacher, my mother's a teacher, thus I rhyme. Saul Williams (born 1972), musician, actor and writer


I aspire to try to be a teacher to my young fans who feel just like I felt when I was younger. I just felt like a freak. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m trying to liberate them, I want to free them of their fears and make them feel that they can make their own space in the world. — Lady Gaga (born 1986), singer and songwriter

We teachers are rather good at magic, you know. — Minerva McGonagall , as written by J.K. Rowling (born 1965) in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

[A mock attack on teachers by Jon Stewart:]

You are destroying America. Yeah. Look at you, with your chalk-stained irregular blouses from Loehmans, and your Hyundai with its powered steering and its wind shield. I guess bugs hitting you in the face doesn’t cut it for old Mr. Chips. ... Three months vacation every summer. Special textbooks with all the answers in them. ... The greed that led you into the teaching profession has led to the corruption of it. [Then in a high mimicking voice, he said:] ‘But John, there is a correlation between poverty and poor test scores. Teachers shouldn’t bear the total blame for a larger systemic failure.’ Pish posh piffle! If you can’t create a competitive labor environment for us to school our children, someone else will. I’m recommending right now that ... Americans look into outsourcing our children’s education. Now obviously, we cannot fly in thousands of Chinese teachers ... [Let’s] disassemble our children, ship them and have them reassembled over there. — Jon Stewart (born 1962), comedian and social critic

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Sources: These were collected from a range of sources, including www.brainyquote.com, www.quoteworld.org, www.quotegarden.com,www.quotationspage.com/quotes/, www.twainquotes.com, www.mugglenet.com, The Answer Sheet.

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