I worked with a guy named Dan. We taught a summer class together, and he had a major impact on me. He probably does not remember me, and I cannot remember his last name. He was so good with the kids, and was a great teacher. In a setting where most students failed, Dan could reach them all. He was passionate, kind, talented, fair, and also firm. Students respected him.
Toward the end of the summer, we got to talking. We got along quite well, and would often talk for a while after class. I'd been noting more and more how much better of a teacher he was then me, and so I just asked him: "How do you do it?"
"Learning something new is hard," he told me. I asked him to go on. "I think a lot of us forget how hard it is, and how much time it takes to learn a new skill. To remember that, I try learning something new every two years." His current skill was painting, and he was having a hell of a time doing a water color self portrait. He wasn't a good painter, but trying make him realize how hard it was to learn this thing. His painting teacher had patience with him, and he passed that on to his students. This had a transformative effect on his class.
Dan's view was that all teachers should learn a new skill. He thought doing so would make all of us compassionate, and I totally agree. Since that conversation in 2006, I've tried to do something like that myself. When you try and fail at something performance based, you become naturally more compassionate. More kind. More understanding. Your students notice this, and it benefits everyone.
We should all be like Dan.