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Appreciating teachers (for a change)

This is Teacher Appreciation Week (so declared by the National Education Association), a fine moment to say something nice to or about teachers, who have been put through the ringer in recent years.

Why has teacher morale been plummeting, as evidenced in poll after poll? You can, in large part, thank reformers who have moved to end or reduce teacher tenure, make teacher evaluation partly dependent on student standardized test scores, tell teachers what and how to teach, etc., etc.

So here, in the spirit of the week, are some nice — and occasionally amusing —  thoughts about teachers.

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”



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)



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



I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.

Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)



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)



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



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



Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.

Jacques Martin Barzun (born 1907), historian



From kindergarten to college, certain teachers engaged my curiosity and motivated me to learn. While I was not the best student, their efforts left a lasting impact.

George Lucas (born 1944), film producer, writer, director, entrepreneur



Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.

– Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)



Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.

attributed to Socrates (469 BC – 399 BC)



There is no recipe to be a great teacher, that’s what is unique about them.

Robert Sternberg (born 1949), psychologist and university provost



A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.

Henry Adams (1838-1918), author and historian



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



Only one person in a million becomes enlightened without a teacher’s help.

Bodhidharma (5th/6th century CE) , Buddhist monk



“They inspire you, they entertain you, and you end up learning a ton even when you don’t know it”

Nicholas Sparks (born 1965-) in ‘Dear John’



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



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



What nobler employment, or more valuable to the state,
than that of the man who instructs the rising generation.

Marcus Tullius Cicero,  106 BC – 43 BC


[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


Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.



Sources: These were collected from a range of sources, including,,,,,,

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

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