The Teacher Muse

Who’s Your Muse?

  • A muse can be anyone who inspires passion
  • Having long-term passions helps to develop grit
  • Teachers can be muses


  • In the past couple of weeks, we have examined the topic of grit and how effective practice makes perfect. While practice is important, one must also have passion to develop grit – “the perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (Grit, 2017). Such passions are lasting goals and interests that one may have since childhood often inspired by a teacher or parent. Thus, the educator serves as a muse for the child. In ancient times, a muse was a goddess invoked for inspiration in literature or arts, but today a teacher may be considered a muse for rousing a child to develop a passion in any area.

    A Quick History Lesson

    In Greek Mythology, a Muse is one of the nine sister goddesses of inspiration in literature, science and art (Greek). Each Muse was said to protect a different art and is symbolized with an associated item. For instance, Erato – the goddess of love and lyric poetry – is depicted playing a lyre. These classical muses were considered the “patron goddesses of poets” (Muse Greek Mythology, 2007) and were invoked in many lyrical poems, such as the Homeric epics (GreekMythology). Many shrines, or museums, have also been dedicated to these goddesses (Muse, 2017).

    Since the times of the ancient Greeks, the definition and embodiment of a muse has changed. Today, a muse is “a person – especially a woman – who is a source of artistic inspiration” (Muse, n.d.). While it is often writers, painters, musicians or filmmakers who note the muse behind their work, they are not the only ones who need inspiration. Everyone needs a little inspiration at some point to uncover their passions and develop the grit to pursue them. Along the journey of education, a child will likely find something that they are particularly interested in. It takes someone close enough to the child to see their passion and inspire them with the rewards of attention and encouragement; thus, making teachers the perfect example of potential muses.

    Teachers as Muses

    Teachers – or should we call them modern day muses – are certainly not limited to being female, nor do they only inspire artistic pursuits. They may also inspire endeavors in areas such as science or athletics. Take, for example, Kobe Bryant. Bryant, a star basketball player with several NBA championship rings and a couple Olympic gold medals under his belt, recently called his high school English teacher his “muse” in a pre-game press conference. Bryant has mentioned his teacher as a source of inspiration over the course of his career despite their differing areas of expertise and even saved a message from her as pre-game inspiration:

    “So January comes, right, and [Bryant] asks me to speak at the dedication for the gym. So we were gathering in this little anteroom. And we were just sitting quietly in the room, and I just brought this article up, and he said, “Yeah, well, you remember, remember when you called me during the Finals?” And I said, “Yes, but the article says we ‘talked.’ Conversation implies that one person speaks and the other person responds.” And he laughs and he says, ‘Well, I’ll tell you: I saved that message and I played it over and over and over again as I was getting ready for the rest of the games.’”

    Kobe Bryant’s former teacher, Jeanne Mastriano on a conversation her and the NBA star had prior to a gym dedication at Lower Merion High School (Littlefield, 2015). Jeanne Mastriano, Bryant’s teacher and muse, also commended Bryant for being “remarkably disciplined” during his high school years (Littlefield, 2015) and having a “through line” attitude:

    “I have a purpose. Get out of my way. I’m taking this down court and I’m getting it done.”

    Ms. Mastriano’s reinforcement had a positive influence on Bryant and his development of grit necessary to actualize his remarkable career. Ms. Mastriano is a model for teachers who want to be muses to their students. Teachers are in the perfect position to be muses to their students, for every day they have the opportunity to spark new interests and elicit inspiration and passion in all of the children that they have the chance to teach. Similarly, parents are continually provided the chance to be muses to their children, as they are very close to their children and can provide them with the necessary recognition of potential and can nurture their enduring passions to develop grit.

    – Claire Jaicks & Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D. (muse)

    Citations:
    Grit. (2017). Retrieved March 15, 2017, from https://characterlab.org/tools/grit

    Littlefield, B. Meet Kobe Bryant’s ‘Muse:’ His High School English Teacher [Broadcast]. (2015, December 12). Boston, MA: WBUR. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from http://www.wbur.org/onlyagame/2015/12/12/kobe-bryant-poem-jeanne-mastriano

    The Muses. (n.d.). GreekMythology.Com. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from http://www.greekmythology.com/Other_Gods/The_Muses/the_muses.html

    Muse. (2017). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved March 29, 17, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/muse

    Muse. (n.d.). In Vocabulary.com Dictionary. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/muse

    Muse Greek Mythology. (2007, November 30). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Muse-Greek-mythology


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