Teaching: The Greatest Responsibility and Opportunity

For my blog post today, I’m sharing a recent post I wrote for Common Dreams, a progressive news site. Here’s an excerpt from "Teaching: The Greatest Responsibility and Opportunity":

"In 1987 I taught several week-long humane education courses to twelve-year-olds in a summer program offered at the University of Pennsylvania. I’ve spoken about the experience of watching those kids turn into activists overnight through in my TEDx talk, “The World Becomes What You Teach,” but what I haven’t spoken about very often is the long-term impact of something as seemingly fleeting as a middle schooler’s summer course experience.

Twenty-two years after teaching that first course, I invited one of those students, now an HIV/AIDS activist working for the mayor of New York City, to come to a talk I was giving in Manhattan. I hadn’t seen him in 18 years, and now the boy I remembered was a 35-year-old man. After the talk I introduced him to friends explaining that he was in the first humane education course I ever taught, and before I could even finish my sentence he interjected, 'That course changed my life!'

During the many years I’ve been a humane educator, teaching about the interconnected issues of human rights, environmental preservation and animal protection in an effort to inspire solutionaries for a better world (and now through my work training others through the Institute for Humane Education’s, www.HumaneEducation.org graduate programs, online courses, workshops and resources), I’ve received many letters from students saying the week-long course they took 'will stay with me for a lifetime' and 'was the most inspiring five days of my life.' But it’s not simply week-long courses. Many times, even a single 45-minute presentation has stuck. I’ve run into several teenagers who’ve told me they remember a specific activity we did or something they learned from one brief visit to their classroom years earlier.

All this is to say that teachers have a profound, life-long influence on their students even through the briefest of interactions. Virtually all of us have memories of a teacher who changed our lives. And since teachers are generally with their students not for 45 minutes or a week, but an entire year or more, that impact could (and should) be tremendous. Which means that teaching may carry both the greatest opportunity and the gravest responsibility of any profession."

Read the complete post.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education

Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education

My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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