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Teaching Philosophy She Lived—by my mother, Ruth Evelyn Johnston Thompson with commentary by my father Erwin A. Thompson

My father, Erwin A. Thompson, in his paper sorting, found this gem among my mother's papers. He says, "It could come out of any textbook, and still has some personal touches not found in them." He goes on to make these comments:

"These were not idle words. I listened to her stories of the children and their troubles and successes. It was not uncommon, in later years, to be walking down the street and have some young adult come up to her and say how much her influence had helped them to be successful individuals.

One former student said she could not get married if Mrs. Thompson could not attend her wedding. Another invited us to his wedding reception. He came over to our table, and whispered into Ruth's ear: "Mrs. Thompson, I want you to know this is all paid for!" (She had always tried to help guide the youngsters into sensible spending and budgeting their future expenses so that they would not be caught short at some critical time.

"In later years she taught mentally handicapped students. One time she just knew that this student did not belong in that class. He had been out of school and was out of touch with his age group. She gave him special attention, which he thrived on. We helped him go to summer school. In the fall he was put back into the regular classroom. He graduated from high school and was working at Ford for a good wage last we heard." --Erwin A. Thompson

by Ruth Evelyn Johnston Thompson

That's what teaching is all about. A teacher is a social engineer, as it were. You see, the responsibility of a teacher in learning is to guide the pupils so that satisfactory personalities are achieved. That is the most important thing that a teacher does.

Subject matter is a part of it, but subject matter is as nothing if the personality is warped. We must strive continuously for inner adjustment and self acceptance of each child so that he has a good mental hygiene. If the emotional tensions of an individual and group are not considered and it is just assignments, soon one finds that the best is not being brought out of each child. Students have to want to do, if there is to be progress.

Teachers cannot set the goals, and expect children to succeed, because the goals are not their own.

Guidance is at the heart of teaching.

First of all, children must be able to live with themselves before they cam live with others. If there is to be any degree of success in the future for them, then they must know and understand how to live with others. If this is possible, then they will be better able to cope with their problems and help solve the social problems that they will be faced with in adulthood.

I know that this is idealistic, but if it is possible to plant these seeds, it is difficult to know how big the plants will grow. I have no doubt that there will not be a hundred percent perfect achievement along this line, but when I can work for two years with a little mind (and some of those minds are outstanding) it is a challenge to attempt to help point them in the direction that I hope will lead uphill; not only for each one personally but for the world as a whole.And if not as a whole, ten in the corner in which they find themselves.

That is teaching, and the kind of immortality that I find exciting and worthwhile. I know this is not done by man alone, nor can God his miracles perform except through man.

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7 Responses »

  1. Too many teachers miss your mom's point: the student, not the subject matter, is what is truly important. It's the character, the individual. Great philosophy.

  2. I did enjoy the reading about your mom and her educational philosophy
    Her philosophy is comparable to that of an old dear friend of ours...a friend of your mother's.

  3. I can't get over how much you look like your mom.

  4. Dear Janet,
    I am grateful your father uncovered her words as well....I was talking to a
    teacher at the homeschool program about what she had written...her ripple
    goes on...

  5. Someone should make a poster featuring your mom's teaching wisdom, and hang it everywhere there are teachers and students.

  6. I'm sure your mom's philosphy brought light and understanding to the hearts of her students.


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