I Have Come to a Frightening Conclusion. I Am the Decisive Element in the Classroom

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? Haim G. Ginott? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The major German literary figure Goethe has received credit for a passage that begins:

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate.

I have not found any solid ascriptions to Goethe in German or English. Oddly, a similar remark has been attributed to the educator and psychologist Haim G. Ginott. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe crafted this quotation. He died in 1832 and received credit in a message posted to the Usenet discussion system in 1998.

In 1972 Haim G. Ginott published “Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers”, and the preface contained a series of memorably vivid statements that have been widely repeated with occasional garbling. Ginott stated that he composed the remarks when he was a young teacher, and they summed up the book’s philosophy: 1

I have come to a frightening conclusion.
I am the decisive element in the classroom.
It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.

QI has placed each sentence on a separate line for readability, but in the book they are combined into a single paragraph. This extensive excerpt has been reproduced here for research and educational purposes.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Have Come to a Frightening Conclusion. I Am the Decisive Element in the Classroom

Notes:

  1. 1972, Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers by Dr. Haim G. Ginott, Chapter: Preface, Quote Page 15, The Macmillan Company, New York. (Verified with scans)