Elizabeth Warren, Teacher

A few weeks ago, we sat outside on a hill above the Iowa River and watched Elizabeth Warren give her stump speech, talking about how a two-cent tax on the richest Americans can transform opportunities for the rest of us. She told the parts of her story I’d heard a hundred times on how her mom’s minimum wage job at Sears saved their house, and how an affordable commuter college in Houston helped her realize her own dreams. We stood in the famous selfie line, and the college girls behind be said they were more excited for this than they would be for a picture with Kylie Jenner. 

I’m all in to caucus for her already, but I still worry about how she’ll connect with the people who helped Trump win in 2016, how she’ll target her message to them. 

In this interview from The Cut on Tuesdays podcast, Rebecca Traister talks to her at Warren’s house, and they dive deep into what it means to be a life-changing, memorable teacher, which Warren was, by all accounts. Even prominent Republicans who took her class at Harvard Law School agree on this. 

She talks about teaching Sunday school tween boys, and special needs preschoolers, and Harvard Law students in this interview. The techniques and instincts at the core of her practice are the same: meeting people where they are, engaging them in a way that’s meaningful to them, pushing them right to the edge of their abilities and knowledge and then knowing when to ease off, and most of all, making sure that the most introverted students also get a chance to be challenged and to show what they’ve got. 

As a former teacher who’s applied for jobs in other fields, I know it the skill set it takes to be a good teacher can sometimes be dismissed when teachers try to pivot to other fields, in a way other professions are not; I also think the skill set of an excellent, experienced teacher is exactly what we need in the next election.

In this interview, Traister asks such thoughtful questions, coaxing out a story I hadn’t heard before, of Elizabeth Warren the teacher, who doesn’t talk down to anyone, who is patient enough to see past your first-day self, whose knowledge of the subject matter is so deep, who understands how to explain how the basics apply directly to you, who can teach swing voters why her plans will make their lives better, more secure, and more fair.

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