Sunday – The View From Above

In accordance with Stoic Week, each day I will be discussing how a different aspect of Stoicism relates to the practice of teaching. For Sunday, the theme outlined in this years Stoic Handbook focuses on The View From Above.

Teaching can be very difficult. Many of us work long hours designing lessons, marking, learning, and developing professionally. We face pressure from students, parents, school administration, and society as a whole. Sometimes I think it can be overwhelming, however, yet again, Stoicism can aid us in our teaching practice.

By taking a few minutes out of the day to sit back and think about the larger picture or the View From Above, we can start to appreciate the role we play and the impact we have in the lives of our students. Without us, there would be no doctors, lawyers, or philosophers; we shape society and inspire young people to not only follow their dreams, but identify what their dream is as well.

Teaching is definitely not the job most of us imagine it will be when we first get into the profession. I think most teachers get into the profession thinking that their job will be similar to what they observed their teachers doing. This is just simply not the case; every generation of children puts forward their own sets of challenges, pedagogy changes, as does curriculum.

Teachers constantly have to adjust to these various needs and demands that are placed upon us. By taking time to view the world from above however, we can see that the work we put in with the long hours, paperwork, and headaches is a vital function of society. Although the job may not be what we imagined it would be, it is nevertheless worthwhile. Every single one of us can think back to the days when we were students and name a teacher who had a profoundly positive impact on our lives.

If we can step away from the monotony of our day to day lives and see the bigger picture as Stoic practice suggests, we will realize not only how important our job is, but also, we may start to rediscover the motivation needed to continue to practice our craft to the best of our ability. Perhaps we will rediscover some of the larger motivations that first persuaded us to try our hands at the teaching trade.

In participating in Stoic week this year I set myself the goal of writing a short article each day outlining how I think Stoicism can apply to teaching. It has been a great challenge and I’m happy with the way it has turned out. Thinking about Stoicism each day and its benefits has helped me realize how much of an impact thinkers like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus have had on my life. Participating this week has made me realize that Stoicism is not just embedded in who I am but also in what I do. I would like to thank each of you for your viewership of my blog, I will continue to update with my future works.

I finish with one of my favorite pieces about teaching which emphasizes the View From Above:


They Ask Me Why I Teach

They ask me why I teach,

And I reply,

Where could I find more splendid company?

There sits a statesman,

Strong, unbiased, wise,

Another later Webster,

Silver-tongued,

And there a doctor

Whose quick, steady hand

Can mend a bone,

Or stem the lifeblood’s flow.

A builder sits beside him-

Upward rise

The arches of a church he builds, wherein

That minister will speak the word of God,

And lead a stumbling soul to Christ.

And all about

A lesser gathering

Of farmer, merchants, teachers,

Laborers, men

Who work and vote and build

And plan and pray

Into a great tomorrow

And I say,

“I may not see the church,

Or hear the word,

Or eat the food their hands will grow.”

And yet- I may.

And later I may say,

“I knew the lad,

And he was strong,

Or weak, or kind, or proud,

Or bold, or gay.

I knew him once,

But then he was a boy.”

They ask me why I teach, and I reply,

“Where could I find more splendid company?”

*They Ask Me Why I Teach,” by Glennice L. Harmon, in NEA Journal 37, no. 1 (September 1948): 375

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