Great teachers don’t just teach content, they teach themselves

Written by: Jordan Tinney

Published On: January 18th 2012

Everyone in the education system has probably been asked at one time or another about a great teacher they have had. I have had many great teachers, but the one characteristic of great teachers that I have had is that they did not just teach content, they taught themselves. By this, I mean that they showed you who they were and that helped engage you in the topic at hand. I had written about this only briefly before in a post about Ernest Boyer but I wanted to return to it to comment some more.

Great teachers inspire you, motivate you, and draw you in to topics. They do it through passion, expression of thier own interest, and somehow conveying that they too are on this learning journey with you. They are both in control and yet are vulnerable at the same time. You didn’t just view them as “teachers” you saw them as human beings as well. They were willing to take learning risks, and willing to explore. They weren’t your “friend”, but you respected what they did in their daily work and in the way they formed connections with students. It was so clear that they cared about your learning and about you as a person.

I have often wondered if this description of great teachers and their characteristics is much different in leadership. Somehow, great leaders inspire, motivate, and engage you in leaderly conversations, but at the same time, they come over as human beings who are in the leadership adventure with you. They aren’t afraid to take a stand, take risks, yet at the same time they convey that they are vulnerable and willing to take a back seat to better ideas/plans, or an admission that more work needs to be done to get it right. They aren’t afraid to reach out and tap into the expertise around them.

The next time someone asks you about great teachers, imagine what it was about how they showed you “who they were” that inspired you. Then, consider what you do as a leader in your own context. How are you able to model and mirror those same characteristics in a way that shows people not only what you stand for, but who you are? If you are able to do this, the leadership journey may just be a little easier with more people along for the ride.