“The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained and he only holds the key to his own secret.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was never a pupil of the revered Wadsworth High School English teacher, Bob Frey, but we had become acquainted as I sat in his second period study hall. Hearing that I planned to become a teacher, he sought me out at graduation to advise that I “did not have the patience to be a teacher, adding that he, himself, lacked patience at his relatively young age, and thus was leaving for London to open a restaurant.
Flattered by the attention and being aware of my own strengths and weaknesses, I discovered that my impatience for results was often a virtue that combined with other gifts led to a successful television broadcast management career. Still, I never forgot my desire to teach young people. I sought the advice of many educators, entered the Extended Teacher Education Program (ETEP) at the University of Southern Maine, did practice teaching at an elementary and a middle school, and finally, this past year, realized my long-held dream and entered the classroom.
I have had a modicum of “teacher-training,” and I believed that I had acquired the patience I had lacked earlier in my life, but still I periodically do research on how to be the best teacher I can be, and how I can reach ALL students, including those hard-to-reach intractable students who likely have been hurt by adults in their past, and now fear failure so much that they throw up defensive walls rather than try.
In teaching high school literature this past year I rediscovered Emerson as I stumbled upon his treatise on education, in which he states “The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.” Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writings and beliefs have had a lasting influence in the history of our culture, so I kept reading.