Get Inspired: Quotes About Teaching

John Dewey (1859–1952), American philosopher and educational reformer, said, “To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.” I feel that I am one of those truly happy people who have discovered their passion and found a way to turn this passion into a significant part of my life. Oddly or not, I have always dreamed of becoming a language teacher, and through many years, I have developed a true love and devotion to teaching.

As this New Year starts, I wanted to write something encouraging and inspiring to all of us teachers. I decided to share a few inspirational quotes about teaching. I hope they will motivate you and help you appreciate the work we do as teachers and educators.

Teaching as a Profession

“Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach” (Aristotle).

“Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together” (Scott Hayden).

Appreciation for Teaching

“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition” (Jacques Barzun).

“A teacher affects eternity: He can never tell where his influence stops” (Henry Adams).

“Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth” (Helen Caldicott).

“Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions” (Unknown).

Teacher’s Personality

“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are” (Jim Henson).

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires” (William Arthur Ward).

“Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference” (John Wooden).

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child” (Carl Jung).

“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” (Anonymous).

Teacher’s Influence

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized” (Haim G. Ginott).

“The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot” (Audre Lorde).

“I’m more interested in arousing enthusiasm in kids than in teaching the facts. The facts may change, but that enthusiasm for exploring the world will remain with them the rest of their lives” (Seymour Simon).

“The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth” (Dan Rather).

“Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher” (Japanese proverb).

“Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best” (Bob Talbert). 

How Do We Teach?

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery” (Mark van Doren).

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).

“I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn” (Albert Einstein).

“Rewards and punishment is the lowest form of education” (Zhuangzi).

“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results” (John Dewey).

“Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon” (E. M. Forster).

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind” (Kahlil Gibran).

“The average teacher explains complexity; the gifted teacher reveals simplicity” (Robert Brault).

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited” (Plutarch).

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” (Albert Einstein).

“To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching” (Henri Frederic Amiel).

“Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers” (Josef Albers).

“A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron” (Horace Mann).

“The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence” (Amos Bronson Alcott).

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow” (John Dewey).

“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn” (Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Estrada).

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.
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2 Responses to Get Inspired: Quotes About Teaching

  1. Leslie Barratt says:

    As always, your column was useful to me, Elena. I always read the column for what I can share with my students. These are great quotes, and several are easy enough for my EFL pre-service teachers to understand. There is one more difficult one I like by Deborah Meier: “Teaching is mostly listening; learning is mostly telling.” That one is so interesting because it forces the hearer to consider what she meant. I think it means that the teacher must listen to the students’ needs, and the students must tell what they need, but much of the listening and telling is not consciously done.

  2. Jean Arnold says:

    Thanks for compiling those, Elena. Very nice reminders about why we do what we do.

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