Ralph Morris

There is a scene in Robert Bolt’s play, “A Man for All Seasons,” in which Sir Thomas More, the lord high chancellor of England, suggests to a young and ambitious man of the royal court that he should become a teacher.

“But if I did that,” he replied, “I would be forgotten. No one would know.”

“You would know, your students would know, God would know,” said Thomas. “Not a bad audience, that.”

More’s words are a great tribute to teaching.  His long-time dream was to become a teacher, and he did teach law for a few years in London. But politics, and intrigue in the king’s court, is where he landed.

More would have been much happier if he had stayed with teaching. He says as much in his writing. He hit upon a truth about teaching: that teachers do not labor in obscurity. 

If they are passionate about their subjects, they inspire their students beyond measure.  Each of us can look back to a time in school when a teacher sparked a creative fire inside us. That fire still burns in the minds of many of us today.

Teachers see things in us. They do whatever they can to bring it out. It’s not an easy task. But the right teacher can see it, say it and set the thought in motion.

“You should write, try to make a living at it,” my high school English teacher told me, many years ago. The thought was placed in my mind by a teacher. 

A lifetime later, I’m still writing.

I see teachers as God’s great blessing-givers on earth. They touch our lives in so many wonderful ways.

Sometimes, just a simple word of encouragement or a softly-spoken bit of praise can be a powerful force in changing the direction of a young person’s life.

Each of us, regardless of our occupation, can look back to a time in school when a teacher inspired us. Good teachers do that. They are always looking, searching for a way to inspire a child.  And so many of us work in our professions today because a teacher helped guide us there.

Often, we read articles about the pressure and struggles teachers go through to meet standards, to boost test scores. 

They are constantly prodded to keep better records, fill in the paperwork, achieve higher test results, attend seminars and workshops and to be better education bureaucrats.

Because of this, there is much frustration among teachers today. The busy work of their profession bogs them down. Their hours are long, their pay is low, their stress levels often unbearable.

Yet, they stay at it, knowing that the busy stuff of achieving professional standards isn’t what makes teachers effective. Or great. It’s the time they take to offer the human touch. The soft-spoken word of praise, the prod, the push that can turn a life around. 

Good teachers are able to crack the shell, to light the fire, to water the blossom of young minds. And so the good teachers stay at it. They know they won’t make a fortune, but they can make a difference.

And sometimes good teachers are rewarded in public ways. In speeches and articles, great people often give credit for their accomplishments in life to their teachers.

As an example, former President Jimmy Carter praised the late Julia Coleman, a teacher and principal at his tiny high school in Plains, Georgia, for setting him on the right path.

In his Nobel Peace Prize speech, Carter immortalized Miss Julia, who walked with a limp from a birth defect, as his inspiration in life. She constantly told the young Carter that he could be anything he set his mind to, even President of the United States.

- Ralph Morris worked for newspapers in Alabama, Georgia and Missouri and managed 20 newspapers in the Carolinas. He is now retired in Phenix City, his hometown.

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