74 E D U C A T I O N A L L E A D E R S H I P / D E C E M B E R 2010 / J A N U A R Y 2011 Humility in an Age of Hubris Humility : The word conjures up meekness, pas- sivity, even submissiveness, and, in the worst case, obsequiousness. Yet this is a false humility. True humility is both a generosity of spirit and a quiet self-confidence. In teaching, it means understanding that although one may know a great deal, one does not know everything. It means being willing to learn from others, whether they be peers, 1st graders, or immigrant parents. It means treating all others—whether a parent with a 4th grade education or a professor with a PhD—as though they were as worthy and important as oneself. It means understanding that no method, strategy, or approach is the magic bullet to teaching and learning. Although we cannot teach humility, at least by traditional means, we can nonetheless nurture and cherish it in school. We also cannot measure it, at least not by the blunt instruments currently in use. But we can easily assess it. We can see it in the eyes of students; in their self-possession and engagement; and in the respectful relation- ships we have with colleagues, students’ families, and communities. In this age of hubris and shameless self-promotion, humility is an essential quality for teachers to have. — Sonia Nieto Professor Emerita, Language, Literacy, and Culture University of Massachusetts Excitement About Learning Effective teachers are more than dispensers of knowledge—they ignite a passion for learning. As a student teacher, I had the opportunity to observe two edu- cators presenting information about Greek mythology. The first teacher sat behind his desk and read a magazine while his students completed worksheets. It was painfully obvious that he lacked enthusiasm, not only for his content area, but also for teaching itself. His job was to fill students’ minds with information, and nothing more. In the second classroom, the teacher and her students chattered excitedly about Zeus, Poseidon, and other mythological characters. Each morning, the students couldn’t wait to share something new they’d discovered the night before. Teachers who pique students’ curiosity about a topic, provide them with the cognitive tools necessary to learn, and then engage them throughout the learning process are priceless. Can we measure this quality? You bet. Just ask the students. It’s obvious which teachers are passionate—not only for their content area, but also for those they teach. —Joseph Semadeni Fifth Grade Teacher, Wyoming What Makes a Educational Leadership asked some prominent educators to describe the most important quality of an effective teacher. Brief Statements.indd 74 11/3/10 10:14 AM
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