Picking up on where Louise left off in her last blog post I would posit that great teachers embody the qualities of liberally educated people. I find it useful to apply both William Cronin's meaning of liberal education and his ten qualities of liberally educated people to the goals of education and the qualities of great teachers at every level, early childhood through adult education. For Cronin, the purpose of education is to nurture human freedom and growth. Great teachers do that. For great teachers, education (to apply Cronin's observation of liberal education) is not something any of us ever achieve; it is not a state. Rather, it is a way of living in the face of our own ignorance, a way of groping toward wisdom in full recognition of our own folly, a way of educating ourselves without any illusion that our educations will ever be complete. The best teachers embody this tenet...they are clearly engaged in the learning process along with their students.
And, great teachers recognize that education for freedom (again, to refer to Cronin) is also education for human community. The two [freedom and community] cannot exist without each other. The best teachers are intrepid in their quest to connect skills and knowledge with community engagement.
Rather than repeat the ten qualities that Cronin lists to describe liberally educated persons, and apply each quality to a description of great teachers (Louise has quoted them in her piece), I would emphasize Cronin's tenth quality: Only connect...from which I will now quote and change "educated person" to "great teacher"...
More than anything else, being [a great teacher] means being able to see connections that allow one to make sense of the world and act within it in creative ways. Every one of the qualities I [Cronin] have described here—listening, reading, talking, writing, puzzle solving, truth seeking, seeing through other people’s eyes, leading, working in a community—is finally about connecting. [Being a great teacher] is about gaining the power and the wisdom, the generosity and the freedom to connect.
And, I would add, that in those myriad connections come the rewards of teaching.
The photographs of great teachers in this blog post come from three of the exceptional schools where we are honored to work: The College School, Maplewood Richmond Heights School District, and Butler University Indianapolis Public School Laboratory School.