“Teaching children may be the highest way to seek God. It is, however, also the most daunting way, in the sense of the greatest responsibility.”
–Gabriela Mistral, Chilean Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature
For many children and families the last weeks of summer are winding down now, but for many devoted teachers preparing for the new school year began as soon as the last one ended. As I wrote in a letter to teachers and educators in The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation, after parents, teachers are probably the greatest influencers and molders of children’s futures. Teaching has to be more than just a job; it has to be a calling. I share Nobel Laureate in Literature and teacher Gabriela Mistral’s belief that “a love for children opens up more paths for teachers than pedagogic theory does.” You can have the best equipped school, smallest class size, and a great curriculum, but if teachers and principals do not love children, children will know it—and be hurt. Teachers must be committed to finding and nourishing the gifts in each child and to building a child’s sense of confidence and competence. Teachers’ negative attitudes and messages can compound a child’s learning difficulties, but a teacher’s regular compliments and support can motivate, and even save a child’s life.
Marian Wright Edelman is Founder and President Emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to childrensdefense.org.