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How to Find Inspiration to Teach

How to Find Inspiration to Teach

Kevin Bibo | Teaching

Over the years, I have earned the reputation of an inspirational teacher. I cannot identify the exact moment when a student is inspired in my classroom. I cannot tell you the recipe for the “magic potion” of inspiration or where to purchase inspirational pixie dust. It just happens. It’s a God thing. However, I can tell you that alumni regularly visit me and share their personal success stories. They thank me for something I said, wrote, or an opportunity that I provided for them that gave them a direction and sense of purpose in their lives. Some students now enroll in my courses with not only the objective to learn the curriculum, but also with the expectation that they will receive some value-added inspiration. This is pressure.

One student stands out this year. Two of his closest friends are my former pupils. One is participating in the film program at a major university in Southern California, and the other is a journalism student at our local university. From my student’s prospective, his friends are living out their goals and dreams because of the time they spent in my classroom. While there may be an element of truth in his belief, my role in these students’ success is somewhat debatable. Yes, I was their teacher. Yes, they are both pursuing careers closely related to what I taught them. What my current prodigy may not understand is that my role as inspirer was more like a conveyor belt; it simply helped these people along as they headed towards their personal goals.

However, I can see areas for growth in this student, and I am doing my best to mold, shape, and guide him in the direction he seems created to follow. Sometimes it is uncomfortable. I recognize that he expects me to teach him something. The problem is that what he expects and what he needs are two different things he cannot yet understand. For example, I have him running around working on special projects that he would not normally be interested in doing. Why? So that he can learn to work as hard on the stuff he has to do as the stuff he wants to do. It’s not very inspirational, but it is necessary for this student’s personal progress. In the mean time, he is not only fine tuning his skill set, but he’s also learning how to work more efficiently under a deadline.

This student and many others that I have taught fail to see how much they inspire me. I work hard at what I do and I love it. However, I would not love it so much or work so hard if it were not for the clientele I serve. Hungry, youthful minds and eager, young souls in search of meaning and purpose are in my humble opinion the greatest group of individuals to serve. I am inspired not only when I witness, but also participate in the growth of others. I’m am especially inspired by those who travel such a broad distance in such a relatively short period of time in the high school years. Their progress satisfies my need to know that the time I invest and effort I exert has value and consequence in the world.

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Being around young, optimistic, often idealistic, hopeful, people affects me. After 42 years on the planet, I understand the world differently than my students even if I don’t always share their enthusiasm. However, listening to their ideas and sharing in the actualization of their dreams inspires me to continue to think positively and act as if my best days are still ahead of us. I love this quote from John Erskine

“Let’s tell our young people that the best books are yet to be written; the best paintings have not yet been painted; the best governments are yet to be formed; the best is yet to be done by them.”

I wholeheartedly agree. I think that it is critically and fundamentally imperative that all teachers share this same type of optimism. If you are having trouble finding the inspiration to continue to fight the good fight in the classroom, I would like to encourage you to look for your source of inspiration; it’s right in front of you next time you take roll.

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