Abraham true. But teach him if you can

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Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to Headmaster

A letter written by Abraham Lincoln to the Headmaster of a school in which his son was studying. It contains an advice, which is still relevant today for executives, workers, teachers, parents and students.

A Word to Teachers

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“He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just and are not true. But teach him if you can the wonder of books… but also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hillside.

In school, teach him it is far more honorable to fall than to cheat… Teach to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him he is wrong.

Teach him to be gentle with gentlepeople and tough with the tough. Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone getting on the bandwagon…

Teach him to listen to all men; but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth, and take only the good that comes through.

Teach him, if you can how to laugh when he is sad… Teach him there is no shame in tears.

Teach him to scoff at cynics and to be aware of too much sweetness.

Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to highest bidders, but never to put a price on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob… and stand and fight if he thinks he is right.

Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel. Let him have the courage to be impatient. Let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will have faith in humankind.

This is a big order, but see what you can do. He is such a fine little fellow my son!

-Abraham Lincoln”

Why would one of the America’s greatest heroes write this letter? Why would he want the teachers teach his son the lessons he wished his son learns?

In simple words I would say that he understood the importance of a healthy Teacher-student relationship. He very well understood the power that the educators hold. He was aware of the proximity of impact an educator could make in a child’s life…

In one of our previous articles, ‘The Power of a Teacher’, we aimed to bring in a story of a Hispanic child whose life his teachers changed.

But why are we talking about this relationship again and again? In almost every writing, why are we putting emphasis on this very fundamental? –What’s new in this? We all know it already!! (Wondering why again? Should I proceed further or quit reading here?)

I want you to picture a student in your class who feels a strong personal connection with you, talks with you frequently, and receives more constructive guidance and praise rather than just criticism from you or other teachers. This student is likely to trust you more, shows more engagement in learning, behaves better in class and achieve at higher levels academically. (Remembering your favorite student?)

Now, think about the ‘problem child’ in your class. The one who, whenever you see him/her is roaming around the classroom, making mess, disturbing the peace of other students, is below average academically, does not listen to you. A child who could question your performance as a teacher when it comes to managing a classroom or maintaining the report cards at the end of the session. This is the child who could spread rumors of your reputation from a good teacher to a teacher who is unable to manage just one child. This is where we want to draw your attention.

As an experienced person, you already know that Students’ development as a whole is directly proportional to the Teacher’s development as a person.

·         A high school student chooses to share the news that he recently got a part in a community play with his teacher because he knows that his teacher will show genuine interest in his success.

·         A fourth grade boy who is struggling in math shows comfort in admitting to his teacher that he needs help with multiplying and dividing fractions even if most of the students in the class have moved beyond this work.

·         A middle school girl experiences bullying from other students and approaches her social studies teacher to discuss it because she trusts that the teacher will listen and help without making her feel socially inept.

Teachers who foster positive relationships with their students create classroom environments more conductive to learning and meet student’s developmental, emotional and academic needs.

(All theories, all words, but what about the practical do’s and don’ts? Don’t you know about the changing trends and behaviors of children? They don’t listen, they don’t obey!! )

Don’t worry! We’re coming to the same now… (It’s always better to build a base and then the pillars)

“Instead of thinking about whether you are a ”glass-half-full” or ”glass-half-empty” person, why not ask, ”What’s in the glass?”. Figure that out, work from there and use it to your advantage.”

What can you do to improve this relationship you share with your kids at school? (Do’s)

–          How about making an effort to get to know and connect with each student in your classroom? (Are you crazy? We’ve got 30-40 students in one class, how can you talk to each student and at the same time complete the syllabus?)

Well, yeah! I do see a problem here. But every problem has a solution!

I remember, an exercise we used to practice at work – Pen it down!

In an extra period, why not ask your students to pick a piece of paper & write down their thoughts and hand it over to you! This way, you can know which one of them is in urgent need to talk. A whole year is enough time to know a class of 40, isn’t it?

And always call them by their names, find out information about their interests and strive to understand what they need to succeed in school.


Knowing is a slow process, but interesting indeed!!!


–          Children see you as their mentors, role models. How about being aware of the explicit and implicit messages you are giving to your students?

Be careful to show your students that you want them to do well in school through both actions and word.


–          It is very important to create a positive climate in your classroom by focusing not only on improving your relationships with your students, but also enhancing the relationships among your students. Be aware that you are modeling behavior for your students, whether intentional or not.

What should you avoid doing with your students? (Don’ts)

–         (Assumptions are injurious to a healthy relationship). Don’t assume that being kind and respectful to students is enough to bolster achievement. Ideal classrooms have more than a single goal: teachers hold students to appropriately high standards of academic performance and offer students an opportunity for an emotional connection to their teachers, their fellow students and the school.


–         Some children are introvert, some are shy, so don’t give up too quickly on your efforts to develop positive relationships with difficult students. These students will benefit from a good teacher-student relationship as much or more than their easier-to-get-along-with peers.

–         Not only elementary school students but also middle and high school students benefit from such relationships as well specially in times like now, when the social media influences, like a termite are feasting upon our wooden blocks of values.


–          Assuming that relationships are inconsequential is not right. Some research suggests that preschool children who have a lot of conflict with their teachers show increase in stress hormones when they interact with these teachers.

–          Don’t wait for negative behaviors and interactions to occur in the classroom. Instead, take a proactive stance on promoting a positive social experience by including students in discussions about pro-social interactions and consistently modeling these positive interactions for them.

Improving students’ relationships with teachers has important, positive and long-lasting implications for both students’ academic and social development.

Solely improving students’ relationships with their teachers will not produce gains in achievement. However, those students who have close, positive and supportive relationships with their teachers will attain higher levels of achievement than those students with more conflict in their relationships. And as you know, your students’ development as a whole is your development as a person because, ‘a successful student is a true reflection of a successful Teacher’.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ? William Arthur Ward.





Categories: Academic Performance


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