A Tribute to Teachers: Wit and Wisdom, Information and Inspiration About Those Who Change Our Lives

A Tribute to Teachers: Wit and Wisdom, Information and Inspiration About Those Who Change Our Lives

by Richard Lederer


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A Tribute to Teachers: Wit and Wisdom, Information and Inspiration About Those Who Change Our Lives by Richard Lederer

Applauding the true heroes of the classroom, this compilation looks closely at the teachers who change lives one day and one lesson at a time. Instructors from all backgrounds are covered, from literature and poetry to film and even those captured in comic strips. Detailed statistics are presented, proving that teachers really do make a difference, and a collection of side-splitting jokes and riddles celebrate the most unheralded, exhausting, income-challenged, and ultimately, rewarding of all professions. Chapters include Sunday School Bloopers, Students Say the Darnedest Things, and Why I Flunked Out of High School.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936863020
Publisher: Marion Street Press, LLC
Publication date: 09/01/2011
Pages: 168
Sales rank: 1,357,408
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.20(d)

About the Author

Richard Lederer is the author of more than 35 books, including Anguished English, Crazy English, Get Thee to a Punnery, The Gift of Age, More Anguished English, and the coauthor of Super Funny Animal Jokes and Wild and Wacky Animal Jokes. He is a former teacher, having taught English and media for 27 years. He has been named International Punster of the Year and Toastmasters International's Golden Gavel winner. He lives in San Diego.

Read an Excerpt

A Tribute to Teachers

Wit and Wisdom, Information and Inspiration About Those Who Change Our Lives

By Richard Lederer

Marion Street Press

Copyright © 2011 Richard Lederer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-936863-23-5


The Private Lives of Real Teachers

My wife is a teacher; it's really weird to live with a teacher. I'd be on the phone, doodling on a piece of paper, leave the house, come back in two hours, and that same piece of paper is now on the refrigerator with the words "Great work!" and a big smiley face on it.


Here's a true story: Beth, a high school English teacher in Maine, lived with her friend Sam, an intelligent golden retriever. One day, Beth's mother was riding in the back seat of the car with Sam, who insisted on leaning on Mother. Mother told Sam to "lay down and behave." No action. Mother repeated, "Lay down, Sam." Still no response.

Then Beth commanded, "Lie down, Sam," and down the dog went. He was, after all, the companion of an English teacher.

Beth is a real teacher, and real teachers are rare and astonishing people:

Real teachers give themselves away in public because of the dry erase pen marker smudges all over their hands. Real teachers can't walk past a crowd of people without snapping their fingers, straightening up the line, and correcting behavior. Real teachers ask quiet people at parties if they have anything to share with the group. When anyone leaves the party, real teachers ask them if they have forgotten their hats, scarves, and mittens. Real teachers always have a tissue in hand in case somebody sneezes. When real teachers empty their pockets at night, they find two used hall passes, one unused bus pass, a pencil stub, and no money.

Real teachers' relatives refuse to attend their parties if "it's going to be mostly teachers" because they all talk shop. Real teachers amaze and annoy their friends by correcting their grammar. Real teachers move their dinner partner's glass away from the edge of the table. Real teachers refer to happy hour as "snack time."

Real teachers are irritated by adults who chew gum in public, and they hand pieces of paper to their friends and make them spit out their gum in front of them. Real teachers declare "no cuts" when a shopper squeezes ahead of them in a checkout line. Real teachers ask if anyone needs to go to the bathroom as they enter a theater with a group of friends. In a theater, real teachers often turn around and shush the people behind them. Real teachers send other adults to detention when they use bad language — and they go! Real teachers' voices are permanently set on high volume from attempting to be heard over students' voices day after day. Any loud noise at home causes them to impulsively flick the light switch off and on.

Real teachers say, "I like the way you did that!" to the mechanic who successfully repairs their car. They ask, "Are you sure you did your best?" to the mechanic who fails to repair their car satisfactorily. Real teachers say everything twice. Real teachers say everything twice.

Real teachers wear fuzzy slippers with little animal faces on them. At least one item of their jewelry lights up. Real teachers have at least a dozen colorful sweaters and sweatshirts for each of the holidays, including Flag Day. Real teachers are among the nation's biggest buyers of pipe cleaners. Their neighbors drop off empty coffee cans, margarine cups, L'eggs eggs, milk bottle cartons, scraps of material, and old newspapers at their home.

Real teachers have no social life between August and June. Real teachers want to slap upside the head anybody who says, "Must be nice to work from only 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM and have summers off." While everyone else at the beach is catching up on the latest novels, real teachers are cutting out little oak tag people for their September bulletin boards. Real teachers make little turkey name tags for everyone at their family's Thanksgiving dinner.

So ...

• If you sing "The Alphabet Song" to yourself as you look up a number in the telephone book;

• If you fold your spouse's fingers over the coins as you hand him or her the money at a soda machine;

• If your own children must raise their hand to capture your attention;

• If your refrigerator door looks like a military command center because it is covered with notes, calendars, coupons, phone numbers, and a thousand other things;

• If one of the drawers in your kitchen is full of pencils, pens, crayons, markers, erasers, glue, and the like;

• If you stop at the curb to pick up discarded old shelves, bookcases, file cabinets, or magazine racks;

... then, even if you don't work at a school, you are a real teacher.


A Gallery of Great Teachers

I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist, and there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.


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


The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains.

The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.


A master can tell you what he expects of you.

A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.


Enlightening the Night

The Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 B.C.) may have been the world's first advocate of public school open to all. "Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon or stars," Confucius said. Before he became founder of the religion Confucianism, he gathered a large number of students around him and instructed them in history, poetry, ritual, and music. He never refused a sincere student "even if he came to me on foot, with nothing more to offer as tuition than a package of dried meat."

"In education, there should be no class distinctions," he wrote. "Even a peasant boy can become a man of intellect and principle."

A Mighty Line of Teachers

The Greek philosopher Socrates (469-399 B.C.) believed that everyone possessed true knowledge. He broke with earlier philosophical traditions and laid the foundations for the development of both ethics and logic. His Socratic method of teaching was to ask probing questions that would bring this preexisting knowledge to consciousness. Refusing to bow to tyranny and irrationality, Socrates was charged with corrupting the young people of Athens and sentenced to death by drinking hemlock.

Socrates' most famous pupil was Plato, whose most famous student was Aristotle. And Aristotle's most famous pupil was ...

A Great Student

In 343 B.C., when the Alexander the Great was thirteen years old, he became a pupil of the philosopher Aristotle of Stagira (384-322 B.C.). "I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well," wrote the pupil.

Aristotle inspired Alexander to love literature, history, culture, sports, and physical fitness. Such teaching influenced Alexander to bring the Greek Way to the many countries that he conquered. "Teachers, who educate children, deserve more honor than parents, who merely gave them birth; for the latter provided mere life, while the former ensure a good life," wrote the teacher. "Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach."

The Name Rings a Bell

Traveling ahead from one Alexander to another: Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) did not think of himself primarily as the inventor of the telephone. In fact, he saw the telephone as an intrusion on his privacy and refused to have one installed in his study.

Bell saw himself, first and foremost, as a teacher of the deaf. As a boy, he had forged a powerful bond with his mother, who was hearing impaired. As a teacher, Bell was devoted to helping deaf people speak so that they could take part in the speaking world rather than be isolated. To do this, he opened a school in Boston for teachers of the deaf, and he sought to make sound accessible in new ways.

"Before anything else, preparation is the key to success," Bell explained. His uncommon success in achieving this goal led to his inventing the telephone. Upon Bell's death in 1922, all telephones throughout the United States "stilled their ringing for a silent minute in tribute to the man whose yearning to communicate made them possible."

The Miracle Worker

Most of us cannot remember learning our first word, but Helen Keller recalled that event in her life with a flashing vividness. She remembered because she was deaf, mute, and blind from the age of nineteen months and did not learn her first word until she was seven.

When Helen was six, an extraordinary teacher named Anne Sullivan (1866-1936) entered her life. Anne was poor, ill, and nearly blind herself, but she possessed a tenacious vitality that was to force her pupil's unwilling mind from the dark, silent prison in which it lived: "Before my teacher came to me, I lived in a world that was a no-world. I cannot hope to describe adequately that unconscious yet conscious time of nothingness. I did not know that I knew aught, or that I lived or acted or desired."

In The Miracle Worker, playwright William Gibson shows us what happened when Anne Sullivan first met Helen's mother:

MRS. KELLER: What will you teach her first?

ANNE: First, last, and in between, language.

MRS. KELLER: Language.

ANNE: Language is to the mind more than light is to the eye.

The miracle that Anne Sullivan worked was to give Helen Keller language. Day after day, month after month, the teacher spelled words into Helen's hand. Finally, when Helen was seven years old and working with her teacher in the presence of water, she spoke her first word. Years later she described that moment in The Story of My Life (1902): "Somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that "w-a-t-e-r" meant that wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! ... I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought."

Anne Sullivan described the moment this way: "My heart is singing for joy this morning! A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil's mind, and behold, all things are changed!"

Not only did Helen Keller learn to speak, write, and understand the English language, she graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College and went on to become a distinguished lecturer and writer. But perhaps the most poignant moment in her life came when, at the age of nine, she was able to say to her teacher, Anne Sullivan: "I am not dumb now."

A Path to Self Discovery

Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was a visionary. In 1896, she became the first female physician in Italy. A decade later, she gave up her practice and her university chair in Anthropology to teach a group of sixty young children of working parents in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. There she developed what ultimately became the Montessori method of education, built on her scientific observations of these children's almost effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, as well as their tireless interest in manipulating materials.

She wrote, "Don't tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it, and don't say a word. If you tell them, they'll watch your lips move. If you show them, they'll want to do it themselves" and "The greatest sign of success for a teacher ... is to be able to say, 'The children are working as if I did not exist.'"

Dr. Montessori's simple but profound insight was that, in the right environment, children teach themselves. "I did not invent a method of education," she wrote. "I simply gave some little children a chance to live."

Here is a selection of other great teachers throughout history. Many of them spent time in the classroom, with or without walls. All have powerfully advanced humankind and truly affected eternity:

Moses (circa 1391–1271 B.C.)

Pythagoras (circa 576–495 B.C.)

Euclid (323–283 B.C.)

Jesus Christ (circa 0–A.D. 33)

Paul of Tarsus (circa 5–circa 67)

Marcus Aurelius (121–180)

Muhammad (570–632)

Erasmus (1469–1536)

Galileo Galilei (1564–1642)

Isaac Newton (1643–1727)

Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)

Noah Webster (1758–1843)

Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

Booker T. Washington (1856–1915)

W.E.B. Dubois (1868–1963)

Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948)

Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968)

Jaime Escalante (1930–2010)

Stephen Hawking (1948–)


Why Teachers Matter

If a man empties his purse into his mind, no one can take it away from him. An investment of knowledge always pays the best interest.


Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.


We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.


The classroom, not the trench, is the frontier of freedom now and forever more.


Education is the mother of leadership. –WENDELL L. WILKIE

Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.


Knowledge is the most democratic source of power.


Only the educated are free.–EPICECTUS

The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.


Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.


If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.


In the first major address of his presidency, Barack Obama said: "In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity — it is a prerequisite....

"So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. ... Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country — and this country needs and values the talents of every American."

• A young scholar once wrote, "The amount of education you have determines your loot in life." The student meant to write lot, but loot works, too. For example, four out of five millionaires are college graduates. Education does indeed determine one's loot, as demonstrated by these estimated lifetime earnings for American workers:

high school dropouts $1 million

high school graduates $1.2 million

Bachelor's degree holders $2.1 million

Master's degree holders $2.5 million

PhD holders $3.4 million

professional degree holders $4.4 million

The figures are clear: In 2008, high school dropouts garnered median earnings of $426 per week, compared with $757 for high school graduates and $1,072 for college graduates.

In 2009, in Falls Church, Virginia, 69.5% of all residents age twenty-five or higher earned a bachelor's degree, the highest percentage of any county or independent city equivalent to a county in the United States. Not surprisingly, the median income in Falls Church City that year was $113,313, the highest in the nation. A worker who completes a college degree earns 1.75 times the income of a worker who doesn't. Happily, 62% of all high school graduates receive at least some advanced schooling.

• Even bad times testify to the value of education. During the 2008-2009 Recession and its painful aftermath, the national jobless rate hovered around 10%. Here's a closer look at that joblessness correlated with education:

high school dropouts 15.3%

high school graduates 10.3%

college attendees 9%

college graduates 4.6%

During the Recession, high school dropouts on average lost 16% of their hourly wages, while men with postgraduate degrees added 26%.

• Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare. The fourth grade is the watershed year. The average prisoner has reached the tenth grade.

• Healthy doses of education help protect the brain and keep it fit. "Even with dementia," contends Michael Kabat, a neuropsychologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, "people with more education tend to develop it later. Nobody is exactly sure why, but what we see is that having a higher level of intellectual stimulation can have long-term benefits as you grow older."

• Worldwide the pattern has become clear that child mortality declines in proportion to the years of education that women experience. Educated women, it appears, make better choices about hygiene, nutrition, immunization, and contraception. According to a study by the Institute for Health, Metrics, and Evaluation, education accounts for 51% of the decline in global child mortality, the most significant influence by far.


Excerpted from A Tribute to Teachers by Richard Lederer. Copyright © 2011 Richard Lederer. Excerpted by permission of Marion Street Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

1 The Private Lives of Real Teachers 1

2 A Gallery of Great Teachers 4

3 Why Teachers Matter 9

4 A Teacher's Salary 13

5 What Teachers Make 17

6 Life According to Student Bloopers 19

7 Sunday School Bloopers 23

8 Excuses, Excuses 26

9 A Teacher's Dictionary 29

10 The Creation of Teachers 32

11 A Teacher's Tale 35

12 Educated Bumper Snickers 38

13 Lists Every Teacher Should Know 40

14 Figures of Teach 43

15 Students Say the Darnedest Things 46

16 Jumping to Confusions 50

17 The School Family 52

18 The Classroom Lives of Real Teachers 56

19 Teachers in Literature 58

20 Teacher Flicks 60

21 Famous School Reports-Characters 64

22 Famous Teacher Reports-People 67

23 Teachers' Advice to Students 70

24 Classy Puns 74

25 Have You Heard? 77

26 Why I Flunked Out of High School 80

27 Animal Cracker Uppers 82

28 A Teacher's Covenant 85

29 Short Takes 87

30 Schoolishness 90

31 A Remarkable School 94

32 Language Arts 96

33 Building Better Vocabularies 99

34 Under a Spell 101

35 Proverbial Wisdom 105

36 Science Friction 107

37 Doing the Numbers 110

38 Hysterical History 114

39 Lost in Translation 117

40 More Teacher Tales 119

41 A Teacher's Night Before Christmas 122

42 A Teacher's Garden of Verses 124

43 Education Quotations 127

44 A Teacher's Legacy 131

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"Richard Lederer is the true King of Language Comedy."  —Sidney Sheldon, author, After the Darkness

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