Teach Like a Stoic - Enthusiasm

As we navigate the various stages of our teaching careers, Seneca’s wisdom is a gentle reminder to maintain our youthful enthusiasm.

Teach Like a Stoic - Enthusiasm
Photo by Spencer Davis / Unsplash
“Hang on to your youthful enthusiasms – you’ll be able to use them better when you’re older.”―Seneca

Seneca was a prominent Roman philosopher and statesman in the first century AD. He is known for his works on Stoicism, a school of philosophy that teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means to overcome destructive emotions. His writings have had a significant influence on Western philosophy and literature, and his thoughts still very much apply today.

Seneca's Exile and the Power of Youthful Enthusiasm

Seneca's wisdom about the power of youthful enthusiasm takes significance when we consider the period of his life spent in exile. In 41 AD, Seneca was accused of adultery with the princess Julia Livilla and was exiled to the island of Corsica by the emperor Claudius. During this time, he was separated from his family, his friends, and the life he knew.

Despite these harsh circumstances, Seneca continued to write. His works from this period reveal a commitment to the principles of Stoicism. His resilience demonstrates his belief in the of youthful enthusiasm. Even in the face of adversity and the hardships of exile, Seneca harnessed the energy and passion associated with youth to continue his philosophical inquiries and contribute to his body of work. [source]

The quote at the beginning of this post is a testament to Seneca's wisdom and a reflection of his lived experience. It’s a reminder that enthusiasm is sometimes enough to overcome certain obstacles. It can also be contagious.

Enthusiasm in Teaching

I remember my early days in teaching. I had abundant energy and enthusiasm but not much experience to draw upon. As I gained more experience, keeping my energy levels up became more challenging. Enthusiasm is contagious, and so is the lack of it. Finding ways to keep our batteries charged increases the likelihood of passing some of it along to our students.

Maintaining a youthful spirit in our profession requires tapping into our initial enthusiasm. Continuous learning is one way to keep this flame alive. By expanding our knowledge and skills, we improve ourselves and offer more to our students. A commitment to life-long learning is the antidote to stagnation. This commitment also requires us to keep an open mind and be curious.

As we navigate the various stages of our teaching careers, Seneca’s wisdom is a gentle reminder to maintain our youthful enthusiasm. This energy is helpful, but it's not sufficient. It makes us better teachers, but in many ways, the school system is designed to drain our energy throughout our careers. Some of that energy is best spent educating the public and advocating for systemic changes that bring happiness and joy to teaching, making it more sustainable.

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