This Is the Most Important Thing a Teacher Can Do

Do professors have a duty to their students beyond simply imparting information? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

I think imparting information is probably the least important part of being a teacher. The most important? Modeling curiosity, a genuine love of learning and knowledge, and above all showing others what it looks like to be passionate about the art or discipline a student is hoping to learn. I don't know that any of my students will remember what I told them about iambic pentameter, or King James' struggle to consolidate power, or Romeo and Juliet. But I like to think that some of them will remember me banging my fist on the table and chanting, "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?"

Why? Because I love, love, love the sound of that line, and the thought of Romeo's life changing before our eyes. I still get excited saying it out loud, even if it's a gray February Wednesday, and everyone is tired, and it's the thousandth time I've asked students to scan its meter and diagram its prosody.

I still love that stuff, and that's what I think a professor has a duty to at least try to give students: the love of something. Not many of my students will write books of poems, or historical nonfiction. Not many of them will ever teach someone else to read Shakespeare. But I hope they will all gleefully, unabashedly spend their lives doing something they love.

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