Teaching Quotes

For educators, family medicine faculty, or budding sages

I have many. Here's some of my favorites. They apply to teaching in general, not necessarily exclusive to medicine. While these thoughts motivate and inspire me, what drives my development the most are the great teachers I've had. There are seven most prominent - my parents (both were teachers), my geometry teacher, my college biochem prof, and three mentors from med school (one FP, one Peds, one ID/GP).  They all had high standards for themselves and their students. They had great respect for their students (and the physicians, their patients). They would all tell you that they loved their students. And they all loved learning and seeing the light in their students eye at the moment of dénouement. The right formula for me is try to be a little better teacher after every encounter with a learner. The same goes for doctoring. Andre Lijou

[Here's one of my favorites that I used to caption a slide in my talk on my practice days in remote rural KY -a great teacher with my children.]

     "Why is the most common question asked by 2 and 3 year olds, which is why so many parents become frustrated with their little ones during this developmental phase.  

     By trying to mightily answer the why question and encouraging more whys, toddlers go on asking why until they win a Nobel prize or retire as astrophysicists, successful novelists or even psychologists.

    Not getting answers to why leads kids to stop asking and contributes to the death of their curiosity and hope, perhaps even condemning them to a life of boredom and watching daytime television. Whatever finally comes of asking the why question, the important thing is to never stop asking. If you stop asking why you are likely to end up with some peculiar beliefs [like]:


The world is flat;

The sun moves around the earth; [or even]

Trout don't bite on a full moon." -  Paul Quinnett, PhD, in Pavlov's Trout

I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him. -Galileo Galilei, physicist and astronomer (1564-1642)

Good judgment comes from bad experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.  (unknown source)

In seeking wisdom, the first step is silence, the second listening, the third remembering, the fourth practicing, the fifth -- teaching others.  -Ibn Gabirol, poet and philosopher (c. 1022-1058)

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest. -Confucius, philosopher and teacher (c. 551-478 BCE) (hmmmm, that sounds familiar - should Gabirol have given Confucius credit?)

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance. -Will Durant, historian (1885-1981)

It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connections between them.  Leo Buscaglia, author, educator (1924-1998)

There is a foolish corner in the brain of the wisest man. -Aristotle, philosopher (384-322 B.C.)

 "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."  [Antoine de St. Exupery]

To array a man's will against his sickness is the supreme art of medicine. -Henry Ward Beecher, preacher and writer (1813-1887)

 More teaching responses from family medicine faculty:

 Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher. -Japanese proverb

We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us

-         Marcel Proust

"The successful teacher is no longer on a height, pumping knowledge at high pressure into passive receptacles...He is a senior student anxious to help his juniors."  -Sir William Osler, The Student Life

"Time is the best teacher.  Unfortunately, it kills all its students."  -Anon

Constancy is the foundation of virtue. - Francis Bacon

Life is hard, but even harder when you're stupid.    - Hardcore Parkland Hospital ER frequent flyer

You could do an entire weeks worth of conference comparing and contrasting these:

"The most fortunate of men is he who combines a measure of prosperity with scholarship, research, or contemplation; such a man comes closest to the life of the gods."  -Aristotle

 Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed. - Joseph Stalin

 Cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy and while guided and controlled by virtue, the noblest attribute of man, it is the only dictator that freemen acknowledge and the only security that freemen desire. - Mirabeau B. Lamar, 2nd president of the Republic of Texas

 "Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one."  -Malcolm Forbes

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance. -Will Durant, historian (1885-1981)

It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connections between them.  Leo Buscaglia, author, educator (1924-1998)

-The hardest conviction to get into the mind of a beginner is that the education upon which he is engaged is not a college course, not a medical course, but a life course, for which the work of a few years under teachers is but a preparation. - Osler

-Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. – Voltaire

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds" -Albert Einstein

"A teacher affects eternity.  No one can tell where his influence stops."  from Henry Adams.

Data is a campfire around which organizations huddle for heat and light. The irony is in the fact that neither the heat nor the light yield a solution. The solution emerges out of the huddling (i.e., through the organizational interaction in a discussion forum). - Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, anonymous.

Medical education is not just a program for building knowledge and skills in its recipients... it is also an experience which creates attitudes and expectations. Abraham Flexner 1914

Carl Hammerschlag was asked by a Native American patient if he could dance. He shuffled his feet a bit and the patient said, “That’s good.” Realizing that there was some purpose to the patient’s request, Carl asked him if he would dance as well. The patient adjusted his oxygen cannula and danced vigorously right there on his bed. Carl paused for a moment, then asked the patient if he could teach him to dance like that. The healer said, “I can teach you my steps, but you must hear your own music.” Carl Hammerschlag 1999

In one year the student develops surprising professional maturity. In the classroom of real life he has learned tha sound medical practice is born of sound medical theory. He has seen how rural family practice can bend or break a man but how it rarely bores him. He has witnessed the challenging clinical mix of the mundane and the monstrous. And he returns to academia a wiser, more confident, more searching student. JK Heid 1979

The basic science of medical education is money…Heat is to water as money is to curricular change  - John Hickner, M.D. 1993

“Teaching hospitals are run by doctors who have chosen a small area of medicine in which, with the aid of expensive technology, they have become expert. How can doctors be expected to feel competent or wish to practice in country areas hundreds of kilometers away from such technology." - Kamien 1984

“When someone is in the dean's office keeps hammering away on something it is amazing how some of the most resistant faculty suddenly take for granted that it is going to change." - Eugene Mayer, NC, 1990

The best places to learn are not always the most convenient places to teach - Helen McIlvain, FP faculty, researcher, educator, counselor, friend 2001

The residency is a period of unbelievable professional growth and development, and with good fortune, may even be accompanied by comparable logarithmic personal enlargement. The resident should make a knowing and informed commitment to be a physician: to take care of patients with compassion, justice, honor, dignity, scholarship, and devotion Solomon
Papper M.D, Doing Right 1983

Many of us thought the battle for Family Practice was over. We are finding that the battles have just begun. It is a hard road that we have to travel. Family practice has survived creation and vision, it must survive revision and complacency - Robert C. Bowman, M.D. 2000

It's not what we don't know that hurts, it's what we know that ain't so!    Will Rogers

Sorry I am late to the discussion. I was away for a week. Here's one of my favorites.

"Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one's inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul. If I am willing to look in that mirror and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge--and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject." Parker Palmer from The Courage to Teach, Jossey-Bass 1998, p. 2.

This is the book I needed 30 years ago. Stuart Sprague

Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. - found on a Chinese fortune cookie, attributed to William Butler Yeats with some controversy still

In any case, clearly at some point in the first decade of life, the student must begin to direct their own education and life experiences to shape their future. The rise of civilizations is more and more lower and middle income children with fires lit. The fall of civilizations is progressively fewer with fires lit.   RCB

Real Education in America, or lack thereof www.ruralmedicaleducation.org/education.htm

Robert C. Bowman, M.D.   rcbowman@atsu.edu




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