Friday, March 30, 2012

The teacher in you

from thestar online

Imparting knowledge and values to young children are by no means, easy tasks, but teachers remain in the profession for various reasons.

SINGER songwriter Bob Dylan once said: “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between, he does what he wants to do.” After reading this, I asked this question seriously of myself. As a teacher, do I get to do what I want to do?

The answer is yes. Well, at least 60% of the time. When I am teaching, I do know that I am doing what I want to do, which is to help others gain understanding of a subject that I have a passion for.

If my teaching gives students the impetus to bring about positive change in themselves, be it in deportment, knowledge or attitude, then I know I am doing what I want to do.

For the rest of the time, like most other teachers, I do what I have to do. Bob Dylan’s words made me think further. What questions, if any, have been asked of me regarding my years as a teacher?

Listed below are some of the questions and answers that are based on my 25 years of teaching.

·Do I get the time to be creative and be motivated?

By the administration, not always. By my students, quite a fair bit. I do realise this however – teachers do need and appreciate incentives to propel them to be inventive.

As for me, I have always tried to come up with an innovative project, at least once a year. I am aware that for this to happen – it is up to me to find the time for it. The inclination to do so is important. If it doesn’t happen, I am to blame.

·Is teaching rewarding?

I would say it has its moments, particularly if a lesson goes well and you know that you are instrumental in bringing about some positive learning habits.

l Is teaching addictive?

Yes, it can be something that you want to return to time after time, especially if you have the knack for it. Your students’ faces will say it all ... whether they enjoy your lesson or just your sheer presence every time you walk into the class.

·A girl asked me this: is a teacher’s job exciting?

On days when the factors are just right, the students are great, funny and eager to work with you – yes, it can be exciting to teach.

Their enthusiasm is infectious and creates this warm feeling that is hard to describe. When they understand your wit and are rooting for meaningful communication, teaching can become exciting.

On other days? Let’s face it, like any other job, sometimes it’s just doing more of the same every day — dreary, dull and uphill tasks — that physically and mentally tire you out. On days like this, you just want the working day to end, so you can go home.

·“Is teaching a gift?” asks an 18-year-old who plans to take up the noble profession.

My answer? I’m afraid it is. Many people are taken on as teachers, but only a few take to teaching like ducks to water.

Why? It’s a gift to be able to reach out to people, touch them where it matters, and make them see the whys and what-fors of notching up change.

·Is teaching challenging?

It used to be, but not as much anymore as I’ve matured over time. Any new challenge can be tackled. But when I was new to teaching, I do remember the rush I felt – there were always so many things to do, to learn, to think and to discover.

A young teacher said to me, “I am extremely happy to be a teacher, it’s good to see the students’ progress and it’s fantastic to see that I (and teachers in general) am an important part in their learning life.” It was a good statement, I thought.

·Do teachers make a difference?

A student answered this for me. “A good teacher makes me want to be a better per-son,” he said.

·Is teaching rewarding?

For this, I sought out a senior teacher – a man due to retire soon and his answer stayed with me.

“Financially, you may not feel you have the best job in the world. But it pays well enough, and if you’re grateful for the privileges that come with the job (he meant free medical services, loans at low interest rates, not having to work during school holidays, etc), I think teaching is a good job to derive a pension from.”

But, the true rewards are the non-tangible ones, he shared, that of providing a charitable service, giving to the young, being involved in their growing years.

What is truly rewarding is when former students come back years later to tell their teachers how they inspired and brought about positive changes to them, he added.

“You really leave a little piece of yourself with them, and they with you,” he said.

I was touched.

·Does being a teacher teach you anything?

My answer would be “loads”. I have learnt so much from being a teacher. There’ll never be an ending to what I can still learn. Mentoring, coaching, training, counselling skills – all these I learnt from teaching.

Being a more accepting person — less ready to condemn and more ready to forgive and move forward — all this, I learnt from teaching.

Practising the habit of being honest, non-prejudicial, just, fair, caring, kind — this too came as an added bonus.

Understanding myself, knowing how I was viewed by others and realising what I needed to do to improve every day came directly from my teaching experience too.

The most important thing I learnt? How you are as a person is reflected by the look on the faces of your students.

When you do a good job, you see the look of enlightenment and appreciation on them. When you care, they often care too. And, if you don’t, they couldn’t care less.
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