Twenty Talks to Teachers

by Thomas E. Sanders

Chapter 20: The Teacher's View of Life

Additional Information
  • Year Published: 1908
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Source: Sanders, T. E. (1908). Twenty Talks to Teachers. The Teachers Co–Operative Company.
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 10.4
  • Word Count: 2,183
  • Genre: Informational
  • Keywords: education, educational, learning, teaching
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Of all the things that indirectly affect your teaching, as well as your own personal happiness, nothing is of such importance as your view of life. It gives coloring to your every act. It is a background from which other things must take their tint. It shapes your views and determines your actions unconsciously upon hundreds of the less important things of life. It makes you a long–faced pessimist, sour and grouchy, or it makes you an optimist, bright and cheery.

One's view of life is not always entirely his own choosing. Health, family, friends, success, may affect your view of life and in turn be affected by this same view of life, but your view of life can be consciously cultivated. You are what you are from three sources.

First, your inheritance. Color, race, nationality, physical features, natural talent, etc., are not of our own choosing. These are for us or against us. We are bound by these fetters and yet we cannot be held morally accountable for them. They determine in a greater or lesser degree our future in many things. Our moral responsibility would make it our duty to accept without pride or regret, without boasting or apology, without compliment or complaint, our God–given, parent–inherited possibilities. From these we are to make the best we can.

Second, You are what you are from your environment. In no marked measure are we responsible for our environment in early life. While it leaves its indelible traces on us, it is not of our own choosing. No man is individually responsible for his own birthplace nor boy hood home. Whether in the busy marts of trade or the seclusion of a frontier farm, whether in primitive Patagonia or gay Paris—it may affect his life and ideas and attainments, but for this there is little credit due him as an individual because it was not of his own choosing.

The potent influence of environment and opportunity on the individual is the hope of the teacher and the reformer. To improve this the state spends its millions upon schools, education, good roads, mail service, sanitation, etc. The great reformers of the ages have been true to their highest ideals because of their faith in their ability to improve the conditions of the masses of man kind. Our schools and reformatories are based upon the same faith. We can improve the race by improving the environment of the young. A careful study and contemplation of the effects of improved environment upon the life of the individual should nerve any teacher to the highest effort.

Third, You are what you are largely by your own efforts. The mature man should be self–directive. Circumstances, inheritance and environment may limit him, but he grows in strength and courage in fighting and overcoming this environment. The ripened fruit of education is intelligent individual self–direction. It is the aim and end of a liberal education. It is the goal to which all else in education should direct.

We believe, then, that it is possible for the individual —the thinking, liberal–minded individual, the teacher trained to see not only the highest ideals of education but to understand the principles and laws of mental growth to attain such ideals—we believe that it is possible for such a person to shape in a very large measure his view of life. Upon the way he looks at life depends largely his health, happiness and success.

"As a man thinketh, so is he." This has been the thought of the great religious reformers of the ages. Buddha and Christ, and all that go between, agree in this one particular. They differ in what to believe, but all agree that one's innermost belief shapes and deter mines his life and final reward. With Milton, I believe that "mind can make a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell." With these statements let us see if we can make more clear how one's view of life will enter the practical affairs of the teacher and make for them of teaching either a paradise or purgatory.

Contrast these views of farming—the first a farmer only; the second a man on a farm. The one is near rowed in his view of life to his cabin and forty acres., Each day is a ceaseless grind. The old statement that there is nothing new under the sun is true so far as he is concerned. His soul and life are dwarfed and swiveled. He ekes out a miserable pittance day by day. Growling and miserly and grudgingly he makes his simple exchanges at the country store. He haggles, and frets and stews over prices, seeking a low and sinister motive in every man's transaction but his own. Of all men he thinks himself the most besought and hard pressed. Day after day he spends in absolute idleness because he can find nothing worth doing. His cattle, his corn and his surplus supplies are so many cents saved for the winter's clothing. The weeds grow up to his front door, his fences are unkept, his stables are falling down, and from the broken window panes hang "the signal rags of shiftlessness." Life holds for him no hope save the sordid things of life. Narrowed and dwarfed and ignorant he goes his ceaseless round. No beauty for him in the sky overhead or in the flower at his feet. The storm cloud appeals only as it may break the drouth or blow down the crops. His thoughts and his vocabulary are bounded by his daily ceaseless round of small economies. Healthy, hearty, his view of life is so narrow that what God intended for a man is little more than a thing.

His neighbor measures all by its market value. The money it will bring—this to him would measure anything less than a soul and would tempt him to sell his soul. He buys land to raise corn to feed hogs to buy more land to raise more corn to feed more hogs ; to buy more land to raise more corn to feed more hogs to buy more land and thus the endless possession goes until he is gathered to his fathers and his children have a chance to spend his earnings often in riotous living. His view of life is broader than the first. He learns that there is a difference in the quality of corn and hogs. To produce continuous crops he must protect and build up the land. The stock of hogs and the care they get make a difference in the profits. His view of life is bounded by the al mighty dollar. He is not hopeless, as he has interests outside himself.

Contrast these with the man of liberal mold on the farm. The farm is to him his apportioned part of God's green earth, a place to live and to be happy. An ever changing scene and view makes life on the farm to him a continuous panorama of beauty. The blueness of the sky, the brightness of the stars, the balmy breezes, the landscape view, even the heat of summer and the cold of winter add zest to his living. He is ever thankful for sunshine or showers, pure air and fresh water, health and exercise—thankful that his is an environment of taste and beauty. He is busy and he is happy. His mind is centered on other things but the dollars, and the comforts come as a side line and without worry or fretting on his part. He rises with the lark to give another touch here and there that will add to the growing of the crops or the beauty of the home. He feels that by his labor he is not only keeping his wife and family but helping to feed the hungry millions of mankind.

What a difference in the spirit of the man who feels that he is feeding the hungry millions of the earth, helping in God's great plan of civilization and enlightenment and the miserable miser who seeks but shade and shelter !

Your view of life changes the complexion of the things about you. It puts spirit and energy into the most humdrum tasks. A necessary work is an honorable work. Do that which your ability and your environment makes necessary. Do it with cheerfulness and a will. Envy no man his success until you are willing to pay for it what he has paid. By paying the price you can win success for yourself. But success is not always measured in dollars and cents. Teach yourself to view life and labor in its broader light, and you will have found the philosopher's stone that dignifies labor well done, arid draws pleasure from any honorable occupation.

To deify your own work is the way to get pleasure and growth out of it. Forget as far as possible the daily wage. Let the carpenter see himself helping to build and improve the homes of mankind and he is ashamed of shoddy work. The street sweeper should glow with civic pride. His work is as essential as that of any man. When he realizes this, his work is then not drudgery. He feels the worth of his work. He feels that he is making his city the cleanest, the brightest, the healthiest and the most beautiful in the world. When he turns at the end of his beat to see behind him a street immaculate, there swells in him a worthy pride of his work and his worth, a thrill as pardonable and as justifiable as that in the mayor's breast as he reviews his uniformed police. The teamster with his load of coal, dirty and begrimed though he may be, should forget his toil and drudgery in the conviction that he is helping humanity to keep warm while in turn he is earning an honest living and the comforts of home for himself and family.

Let the washerwoman, bending over her tub, feel that her work is not only honorable, but necessary. Except for her, or others doing her work, humanity in a few months time would be in a pitiful plight, and our present civilization could not long exist. Dignify your own little niche in life. See in all things the hand of an infinite power, shaping and directing the destiny of man and then no work will be drudgery to you.

You get out of life what you put into it. Measure and it is measured back to you. Joy, sunshine, cheer fulness, obedience, these are reflections of yourself. The brightest colors, the most beautiful harmonies, are self created products of your own mind. We see what we look for, we hear what we listen for, we get what we give. We must lose our life in our work if we are to find it again renewed and more fruitful in the lives of our pupils. Love our pupils and they will love us in return. See good in everybody and the goodness in them will rise up then to greet the goodness in us. Have beauty in our own life and we shall see beauty in the life about us—the rainbow, the storm cloud, the landscape, the sparrow's song, the brooklet's ripple, will all find an inspiring response in our natures.

Grouch and the world is grouchy. Fault–find and others will find fault. Distrust and others will not have confidence in us. The world and all things about us is one huge mirror from which our own image is being reflected back to us. If we want to change the image begin to consciously build up in ourselves a bigger, brighter, better view of life and we shall begin to see bigger, brighter, better images reflected back to us.

As a teacher learn to look on life with a healthy optimism. Get a world view of humanity in its progress. Recognize yourself as a force—infinitely small perhaps, but a necessary force in the triumphant march. Dollars and cents are necessary to you to fill to perfection this place—but over and above all money, sweeter and more lasting, is the lives you can reach, the good you can do, the pleasure you can inspire, the kindlier feelings you can cultivate in your pupils. Cheered, upheld, inspired by such thoughts as these, no community will be uninteresting, no school will be unworthy your best efforts, no healthy, hearty, happy child but will stand before you an instrument of infinite possibilities. Knowing what notes to strike you can place it in harmony with God and the universe.

To see life in its larger views, to live life on a higher plane, to lift others to this larger life is the opportunity of the true teacher. Think you that teaching is dull?