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Susan Ohanian

  • That first year [of teaching] taught me that it's better to ask for forgiveness than to beg for permission.

  • When everybody agrees, nobody is thinking much.

  • Trusting children and books is a revolutionary act. Books are, after all, dangerous stuff. Leave a child alone with a book and you don't know what might happen.

  • While the wheels of all bureaucracies turn slowly, in school bureaucracies many of those wheels have flat tires.

  • But the path to simplicity is littered with complexities.

  • The supply of administrators does seem to exceed the demand. Remember: some administrators are wise. The rest are otherwise. Ninety percent of administrators give the other ten percent a bad name.

  • Teacher education courses promulgate two great myths. One myth is that all children expect or need to be treated the same. The second myth is that there are certainties in the schoolhouse. Benjamin Franklin said nothing is certain but death and taxes. In the schoolhouse, nothing is certain and no one is equal.

  • What they didn't tell you in your college preparatory courses is that a teacher's day is half bureaucracy, half crisis, half monotony, and one-eightieth epiphany. Never mind the arithmetic.

  • The first rule of education is that if somebody will fund it, somebody will do it. The second rule of education is that once something is funded, workbooks will follow.

  • If enough meetings are held, the meetings become more important than the problem.

  • Remember this great teaching axiom: only dull people are at their best during faculty meetings.

  • If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

  • ... please remember these two difficult truths of teaching: 1. No matter how much you do, you'll feel it's not enough. 2. Just because you can only do a little is no excuse to do nothing.

  • ... school is the marketplace of possibility, not efficiency.

  • ... the media confuse wealth with virtue and wisdom.

  • ... nothing enhances self-esteem so much as the ability to do something well.

  • ... the disposition for teaching is two percent inborn and ninety-eight percent reinvented every day of one's career.

  • ... all teachers need to have the courage of their contradictions.

  • Teaching consists of equal parts perspiration, inspiration, and resignation.

  • The opposite of anxiety is not happiness. The opposite of anxiety is death.

  • ... there are only two ways to tell the one hundred percent truth: anonymously and posthumously.

  • When television is bad, nothing is worse. When television is good, it's not much better. Why do you think it's called a medium?

  • People who write for a living recognize only two states of being: writing and making excuses.

  • A workbook should be carefully structured, analyzed for appropriate reading level, matched to every student's individual learning styles, and then thrown out the window.

  • We could revolutionize education if we asked every person connected with the education of children, 'Read any good books lately?'

    • Susan Ohanian,
    • in Phi Delta Kappan ()
  • Teaching is a rigorous act of faith.

    • Susan Ohanian,
    • in Phi Delta Kappan ()
  • ... as every teacher knows, it is easier to move a graveyard than to change a district's existing curriculum.

    • Susan Ohanian,
    • in Phi Delta Kappan ()
  • School, after all, is now — and should remain — the place where, when you come, they have to teach you.

    • Susan Ohanian,
    • in Phi Delta Kappan ()
  • With large industries throwing out the factory model as counterproductive, it is long past time for schools to do the same. I wonder how many adults would do well at dealing with different job requirements and a different boss every 47 minutes.

    • Susan Ohanian,
    • in Phi Delta Kappan ()
  • ... what a teacher thinks she teaches often has little to do with what students learn.

    • Susan Ohanian,
    • in Phi Delta Kappan ()
  • The really scary thing about teaching is that we teachers, particularly those of us in elementary school, teach who we are. We are the curriculum.

  • ... the core of being a teacher is the ability to listen when children speak, to understand and act on their sometimes obvious but often very subtle messages.

  • If you're sure you know the solution, you are part of the problem.

Susan Ohanian, U.S. educator, writer, educational activist