Joyette taught English & Literature at high school for many years. Her writing and education articles come from her classroom experience.
What Are We Teaching About Being Human?
We are not all called to be teachers; it is a very special calling. Christ was the greatest teacher of all, and he bestowed upon some of us the gift of this vocation. There is a human dimension to this vocation, which is critical to achieving success.
Teaching is about the holistic development of the child and not just the impartation of knowledge and skills. It takes certain very special qualities to nurture children into responsible, positive and productive world citizens. Therefore, if as teachers we do not possess attributes such as compassion, understanding, and love we do injustice to the children whom we are required to mould, and we fail in our responsibility towards them. A successful teacher is thus one who demonstrates certain very "human" qualities in the execution of his duties.
Let me share what I consider to be some important qualities that a good teacher should possess:
1. A Nurturing Attitude
Just as plants are given good soil and nutrients to help them grow so, too, do children need a nurturing environment in which they can thrive and flourish to their full potential. This may require financial resources which are, these days, in short supply. However, more importantly, it calls for the innovative and supportive attitude of caring and competent teachers. Additionally, a good teacher is sensitive to the diverse factors such as neglect, abuse, hunger, poverty and prejudice which affect children at home and in the community, and impinge on their behavior and overall performance at school. He will take measures to buffer children against these negative factors and assist them in achieving.
2. Sound Morals and Values
Children right up to their teens are very impressionable and thus are easily influenced by their environment and the persons with whom they interact. They should therefore be exposed to good examples (positive role models) and be shielded against influences that would impact negatively on their development. At times, teachers are called to shield children from such negative influences even within their own homes.
Furthermore, children spend a greater part of the day in the care of their teachers than of their parents, hence, teachers help in a great way to mold their minds and shape their destinies. The teacher must therefore uphold sound principles and provide moral leadership. He cannot be viewed as having questionable morals for, whether he intends to or not, he becomes a role model to his students. Let us put it this way, if a student likes you; he might aspire to be like you. Conversely, if a student does not like you; he does not wish to be like you; consequently, he will not learn much from you.
3. Thirst for Knowledge
As someone whose job is to impart knowledge, a good teacher should continuously hone his skills; he should make learning an ongoing exercise. He should strive to be well informed and in tune with current trends, particularly in his area of expertise. Nonetheless, some children are bright and eager for knowledge. They will, at times, challenge the teacher, and even the best teacher might find himself in the position where he must admit that he doesn’t know the answer today. He must, however, undertake to do the necessary research so that the answer can be forthcoming at the next class. Moreover, a teacher has responsibility for his own personal and professional development which will indirectly impact the development of his students.
4. Creativity and Resourcefulness
These may be inherent qualities in a good teacher, but where they are not, they are necessary skills that can be acquired for a teacher has to exercise creativity in finding ways to engage students, to connect with students who are less than outgoing or to draw out those who have serious personal issues. I have also seen the need for resourcefulness in dealing with overactive or ‘troublesome’ children; for often, such children are usually quite settled and amenable when they are engaged in activities that interest them. They are happy when they are given chores/roles/even punishments which give them a sense of responsibility and importance and through which they can use up their energy in positive rather than destructive ways.
Any good worker is expected to be committed to his organization and the clients whom he serves. The teacher, more so, must be committed to his pupils; not only to their academic development, but also their personal development and their safety and well being. A good teacher looks beyond the sometimes inadequate salary and other disincentives and finds fulfillment in the achievements of his students even long after they have moved on from his care.
6. Satisfaction and Pride
Some of the greatest occasions for joy that a teacher has are:
- When he encounters a positive and responsible adult who was at one time his difficult, rebellious protégée.
- When he is listening to the evening news and hears the success story of a distinguished person in society whose name he recognizes as a poor student whom he had sometimes taken home for meals or whose exam fees he had paid out of his own pocket.
- When he is greeted with hugs and warm smiles or enthusiastic handshakes by grateful past students around town or around the globe whom he had rescued from one adversity or the other or to whom he had simply shown some kindness or understanding.
- When he is treated with excellent service and given special privileges at hospitals, hotels, stores and other places where his past students are employed.
Indeed, a teacher’s reward goes far beyond his monthly salary!
Children often seek from their teachers the love and understanding which they lack at home. Accordingly, they cherish fond memories of teachers who were good to them; those who showed genuine concern for their well being as well as their learning; those who could identify with the changes which were a natural part of their growing up and those whose strictness and sternness were tempered with a touch of love. Similarly, they never, throughout their lifetime, forget those who were incompetent, insensitive or uncaring, and those who were cruel leave indelible marks on them.
Bring Your Passion
Important also, is the need to bring passion into the classroom. An enthusiastic teacher will more easily engage students than one who merely appears to be going through the motions. Children are quick to sense interest or lack of interest in their teachers and are easily bored by the teacher who lacks passion.
Leave your Burdens
Likewise, human as we are, as teachers we must cultivate the ability to leave our burdens at home. Personal and domestic issues affecting a teacher should not be allowed to affect his students as well. After all, the teacher is there to help lessen their problems and make their journey easier; not the other way around.
Embrace Your Vocation
Overall, many people attempt to be teachers, but not all can boast success. Those who possess the gift of the human dimension are perhaps motivated to make teaching their lifetime vocation; those who recognize that they do not should move on to find their true calling.
At the end, you have been a teacher if you can truly say that you have impacted lives in a positive way.
Articles on Education
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- The Value of Competition in the Classroom
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© 2015 Joyette Helen Fabien