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Choose Two

I recently sat down to a meal with a family member who is a businessman, entrepreneur and critical thinker whom I greatly admire. Because of his eloquence and endless interests, I could talk with him about any topic from psychology to food to mechanical engineering—heck, I could literally listen to him share his thoughts on a box of cereal and I’d be engaged. He really thinks about things that deeply and from so many viewpoints that I leave a conversation with him feeling so enthusiastic and slightly exhausted. Hey, thinking should be hard work, right?

As it often does with us, the topic of education came up. This can be expected because it is a field we both love and hold in high esteem. I updated him with the happenings of my job, the joy in supporting new teachers, and my excitement for the future. We talked about what it means to be a great teacher, what it looks like. And, as we were discussing the need to make learning relevant for students of all ages, he asked me a seemingly simple question:

“What two qualities must all teachers have?”

I really had to wrestle with this; there are so many qualities to choose from, as truly great teaching requires so much of us. After grappling with and sorting all of the competing qualities, I confidently prioritized two: empathy and curiosity.

From empathy flows understanding, concern, kindness and thoughtfulness. As Dr. Brene Brown explains, empathy requires that you dig down deep into yourself to find a time when you felt the way another person feels. That requires reflection and great vulnerability.

Curiosity is the second quality and it, too, requires reflection and vulnerability. You have to identify those topics you want to learn more about and then you have to have the initiative and grit to pursue them. You have to be willing to make mistakes, be wrong, and open yourself to a change in mindset so that every single interaction you have becomes a moment for learning. You have to ask questions, and a lot of them, of yourself and of others. You need to seek multiple perspectives and be willing to examine and explore your personal biases in order to get at the heart of your own thinking. And you must be willing to change. For it is with all of this openness that curiosity will serve you well.

He agreed that curiosity was paramount; we all need to be life-long learners and we must instill in our youth the love of learning. I left our conversation with strong convictions about what teachers need and then began thinking about what students need. So, I went through the mental gymnastics all over again to group and prioritize all of the traits a young, developing mind needs. And, my answer is the same. For me, empathy and curiosity are the two qualities all people need, regardless of age or stage in life, because they’re both about finding shadows of the outside world within one’s self.This is your blog post. Blogs are a great way to connect with your audience and keep them coming back. They can also be a great way to position yourself as an authority in your field. To edit your content, simply click here to open the Blog Manager. From the Blog Manager you can edit posts and also add a brand new post in a breeze.

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