11 inspirational Quotes for Educators (and Social Good)

cc photo by J. Delp

I love reading and collecting quotes that challenge my thinking and lend a new perspective to how I approach my work and interactions with others.  Someone recently asked me about inspirational quotes I’ve encountered so I decided to turn the compilation into a quick blog post.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes about serving others. They are great for educators, but also applicable to almost any occupation, or just our daily approach to navigating life.

I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized. – Haim G. Ginott

I believe this popular quote by Haim Ginott is an extremely poignant statement about the power of our words and actions to influence others. His words paint a vivid image of the harm we can inflict, or the hope we can provide to others. 

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.  – Desmond Tutu

We can always do something to make the world a better place. At my school, our third core value is that “doing little things can make a big difference.” We want our students to know that their positive actions (regardless of the perceived significance) make a matter.

Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

This Emerson quote is such a convicting statement. How often have we been disappointed when others have behaved in a manner that does not reconcile with their words? How often have we been guilty of the same? The way we choose to act — the way we treat others — overshadows our spoken word.

Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win. – Jonathan Kozol

Successfully navigating life often involves wisely choosing our battles. In some instances you must make a decision and stand with conviction. In other situations it is best not to engage at all. 

When the world says, “Give up,” hope whispers, “Try it one more time.” – Author Unknown

Hope is the lynchpin of life. This quote emphasizes our critical responsibility to foster hope in those we serve. Many of the skills we attribute to success — perseverance, critical thinking, empathy, etc. — require a renewable source of hope. They way we treat others can provide a life line.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.  – Goethe

With this statement, Goethe makes a stand against the tyranny of the urgent. Time is our most finite resource and almost everyone can relate to the idea of being pulled in many directions. Understanding what is truly important, and investing our time in these things is a challenge, but a critical skill to develop.

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget he is someone today.  – Stacia Tauscher

Live in the now! As an educator, I want my students to understand that they matter now. They do not need to wait to “grow up” in order to make a difference. As adults, this quote reminds us to be present in the moment because what we do today is important.

Kids who think they are going somewhere behave differently than kids who believe they are going nowhere. – Pedro Noguera

This is another quote about hope. As educators, we owe EVERY student the opportunity to understand their infinite value and have confidence that their life is meaningful. For some kids, a trusted adult at school may be the only place they hear “they are going somewhere.”

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in. – Alan Alda

Assumptions are dangerous. My belief is that we must always assume the best in others, however, this is much easier said than done. Taking the time to step back from our interactions and contemplate situations from the perspective of others helps us keep our “windows” clean. 

The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world. – Dr. Paul Farmer

ALL humans are infinitely valuable. If we treat others in a manner that implies they are anything less, we are doing our world a disservice. We have a long way to go on this one.

You stand with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship. You stand with the belligerent, the surly, and the badly behaved until bad behavior is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear. – Father Greg Boyle

Sometimes, you just have to be there for others — even when their actions or behaviors would beg a different response. It is not easy to “stand with the belligerent, the surly, and the badly behaved,” but we need to recognize that these behaviors are often a cry for help. Sometimes others just need patience and empathy as they weather the storms of life.

Please — take a few moments to share a favorite quote about social good, service to others, or education in the comments. I would love to hear from you!

One thought on “11 inspirational Quotes for Educators (and Social Good)

  1. A new quote I am a fan of is “people’s judgements about you are none of your business.” Elizabeth Gilbert
    Especially having been a teen and working with teens, and being a person, I think it’s important to remember that people make sense of the world by categorization of their own making, but it’s not our system.

    Like

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