An essential quality of a great teacher.

I came across a story about three stonemasons giving accounts of their work.  The first said I am cutting stone; the second I am building a cathedral; the third I am serving God.  It is not hard to imagine which mason is likely to find his work rewarding and valuable, and I had thought about using that story with students; it seems to map very neatly onto the Jobs, Careers and Callings categories that are so useful for young adults to think through as they make their choices about their working lives.

Knowing you are doing something in service is something bigger than yourself means you are more likely to do it well. It does not have to be religious.

Knowing you are doing something in service is something bigger than yourself means you are more likely to do it well. It does not have to be religious.

But that story has also stayed with me while we have been interviewing for new teachers in recent weeks.  Which stonemason is most likely to do the best job, go the extra mile, be disciplined where necessary, creative where possible?  Nothing’s ever certain of course, but my guess would be that it’s the one who sees the greater purpose, and the moral worth of his work.  Similarly for teachers.  So in our interviews we have been seeking professional diligence and flair, of course, but beyond that, we’ve been looking for those who fuse love of craft and determination to serve into singular devotion to shaping the next generation.  These are hard things to describe, and impossibly to quantify.  But they are what we’re looking for, because that’s what we know our students are looking for too.

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By Nicholas Alchin | Follow me on Twitter @nicholas_alchin

About Nicholas Alchin

Nicholas Alchin (@nicholas_alchin) is High School Principal at the United World College of SE Asia, East Campus. A sino-celtic Brit who has lived and taught in UK, Switzerland, Kenya and Singapore, he has also held a number of roles with the IB and writes and speaks widely on educational matters. He enjoys travelling with wife Ellie, and kids Tom (10), Millie (13) and Ruth (16).
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