The Secrets of Timeless Teachers: Instruction That Works in Every Generation is aptly titled. Great teachers have existed in every age, with every type of technology, and in every nation. It is not the tools that make them great, but rather their form. Such can be said about this book, which is readable for just about everybody who is anybody in education.
Adams begins Timeless Teachers with a story that involves the first time he wore his teacher shoes. He was hired to teach at his alma mater high school, and he had hardly the slightest idea what his career had in store. He was, as he states, “just happy to have a job.”
However, Adams doesn’t just have a job. He is at the apex of his calling. This is tantamount throughout his book, and he incorporates excellent analogies, vivid imagery, personal stories, statistical analysis, and rich quotes with the ease and splendor of any timeless teacher. For that reason, this book is written for every educator and should be as omnipresent on bookshelves as Harry Wong’s First Days of School.
For those just beginning their career, the reader can sense the strength of identifying targets and sharing stories as to how they aren’t just met, but exceeded. For those of us in the middle of our careers, this book is the perfect way to tackle our complacency. And for those at the tail end of their careers, there is no more meaningful way to reflect on a career spent educating thousands of children than to analyze one’s imprint as a timeless teacher.
The book itself is split into 6 chapters, which I’ll highlight below:
- Passing the Rearview Mirror Test – here, Adams asks teachers to continually reflect on the meaningfulness of lessons. In an age of “standardized test” and “Wikipedia,” we are asked to examine the long-term impact of our lessons. Ten years from now, what will they remember about you, your content, and the lifelong lessons you taught students?
- Teaching in the Front and Back of the Classroom – most educators have heard of the “sage on the stage” or “guide on the side” roles for teachers; but, what if teachers led from every corner of the classroom? What if there wasn’t just no place for a student to hide in class, but every element of the classroom was dedicated to allow their light to shine?
- Becoming an Expert in Your Subject – while being knowledgeable is not enough to be an effective teacher (he uses an irascible John Nash from A Beautiful Mind as an example) there’s something to be said about someone who dominates their field. What if every teacher not only learned the answers to the questions before their students asked them, but also inspired them to tackle the unanswerable questions in their field?
- Being a Continual Innovator – Mark Zuckerburg’s most famous quote is the “biggest risk is taking no risk at all.” In this chapter, Adams explores the notion of climbing high and, occasionally, falling hard. What if teachers never put themselves out there and tried something new? Something big? Something that might fail, but, if it succeeds, would put a child on a career path?
- Being a Dynamic Communicator – a timeless teacher wants to take it upon his or herself to speak to students across all the different stakeholders of education, namely students. What if teachers were able to connect with every kid on a personal level? What if they could use their words to help them not just power through their trials and tribulations, but to show students how to use their difficulties as jet fuel?
- Striking a Triangular Balance of the 3 E’s (Education, Entertainment, and Edification) – I’ve often used the term “edu-tainment” as a part of my own classroom repertoire, but Adams takes it one step further. He asks, what are we doing to edify our future. How are we improving intelligence in an age of Internet searches? How are we closing moral and empathetic gaps in groups who stew on divergence and differences?
Though I’ve provided the basic skeleton of Timeless Teachers, Adams’s composition makes for a book not just worth buying, but one buying for others. This book is one that won’t sit on the bookshelf for too long. Just like movie-goers see new subtleties and revisit the big picture each time they watch a Star Wars film, readers will reach a similar sentiment – a single read is not enough for this book.
One can sense the humility in his writing enough to know that he’d never admit it; but, Adams is in fact the subject he’s writing about. He is a Socrates in an age of Instagram. He is the man who moves mountains. He is the timeless teacher – and he’s ready to share his story.