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The Best Quotes About Education — Contribute Your Own Favorites


As regular readers know, I’m a member of the Teacher Leaders Network. A year ago, TLN members began to contribute their favorite education-related quotations.

John Norton from TLN gave me permission to pick some of them to share here. Please contribute your own in the comments section, and I’ll post a “Part Two” of this list at the end of the year.

Here is a beginning list of The Best Quotes About Education (contributors names are in parentheses):

This is my personal favorite: “When one is building a ship, one does not begin with gathering timber and cutting planks, but rather by arousing in people the yearning for the great wide sea.” — Antoine de St. Exupery

“Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire.” W. B. Yeats (John Norton)

“Bureaucratic solutions to problems of practice will always fail because effective teaching is not routine, students are not passive, and questions of practice are not simple, predictable or standardized. Consequently, instructional decisions cannot be formulated on high then packaged and handed down to teachers. Nor can instructional problems be solved by inspectors who make occasional forays into the classroom to monitor performance and dispense advice without an intimate knowledge of the classroom context, the subject matter being taught, the goals of instruction, and the development of individual children.” Linda Darling-Hammond (Anthony Cody)

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Jedi Master Yoda (Heather Wolpert-Gawron)

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt (Dan Brown)

“What we learn to do, we learn by doing.” Aristotle (Gail Ritchie)

“Teachers must …regard every imperfection in the pupils’ comprehension not as a defect..but as a deficit in their own instruction, and endeavour to develop the ability to discover a new method of teaching.” –Leo Tolstoy (Elizabeth Stein)

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” — Kurt Vonnegut (Marjorie Larner)

“”The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” — Muriel Rukeyser (Ariel Sacks)

“Life doesn’t come with four choices.” — Linda Darling-Hammond (Marsha Ratzel)

“Part of teaching is helping students learn how to tolerate ambiguity, consider possibilities, and ask questions that are unanswerable.” -Sara Lawrence Lightfoot (Sherry L. Annee)

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where is influence stops.” – Henry Adams (Kenneth Bernstein)

“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” – Winston Churchill (Jennifer Barnett)

“I imagine good teaching as a circle of earnest people sitting down to ask each other meaningful questions. I don’t see it as a handing down of answers.” — Alice Walker (Elena Aguilar)

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (John Norton)

Again, please contribute your own favorites in the comments section before the end of the year and I’ll publish a Part Two of this list.

If you found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to this blog for free.

You might also want to explore the 500 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. “In times of change, learners will inherit the earth, while the learned with find themselves equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”–Eric Hoffer

    “When Edison set out to invent the electric light bulb, he wasn’t tinkering with candles.” — Anonymous

  2. “Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave” ~ Henry Peter, Baron Brougham and Vaux

  3. Teachers open the door but you must enter by yourself (Chinese proverb)
    Awaken people’s curiosity. It is enough to open minds, do not overload them. Put there just a spark. ( Anatole France)

  4. “Help students be their own teachers” – anonymous

  5. I put this at the “head of the class” on my Education Quotations page on my site:

    “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

  6. “Every child born into the world is a new thought of God, an ever fresh and radiant possibility.” — Kate D. Wiggin

  7. “A child is not going to be somebody, a child is already somebody.”

    “Teach with joy.”

  8. “I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.” – e.e. cummings

  9. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King

  10. “Children not dream of dropping out of school, living in poverty, or being homeless. They dream of being ballerinas and doctors and baseball players and firemen. Always make sure that our children have the opportunity to make their dreams come true.”

  11. “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy

  12. “A teacher in search of his/her own freedom may be the only kind of teacher who can arouse young persons to go in search of their own” – Maxine Greene (1988, p. 14).

  13. A couple more favorites of mine:

    “Public education is bountiful, crowded, messy, contradictory, exuberant, tragic, frustrating, and remarkable.” — Mike Rose in his book ‘Possible Lives’


    “The schools ain’t what they used to be, and never was.” — Will Rogers

  14. ” Calm Seas never made a seasoned Captin”
    Perk Van

    ” A better day is always worth waiting for ”

    Perk Van

  15. “Tips, tricks, and techniques are not the heart of education — fire is. I mean finding light in the darkness, staying warm in a cold world, avoiding being burned if you can and knowing what brings healing if you cannot. That is the knowledge that your students really want, and that is the knowledge we owe them. Not merely the facts, not merely the theories, but a deep knowing of what it means to kindle the gift of life in ourselves, in others, and in the world.” – Parker Palmer

  16. Great list!
    One more, this one often cited by Mark Prensky —
    “Engage me or enrage me.” (HS student)

  17. The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men. ~Bill Beattie

  18. “We are moving from an era of using processes to teach content to an era of using content to teach processes.” — Cheryl Lemke (@lemkec)

  19. educating yourself about things that you may not even believe in brings honesty and enlightenment into the sunlight!

  20. A company’s bad times are generally the reaping of the seeds sown during the good times. – Dr. Jack Simonds

  21. Safety is the thought before the actual need that results in what we do. – Dr. Jack Simonds

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