You can call them Teachers, Gurus, Mentors or Educators. We’ve all been blessed with their presence through schools, colleges, or when we were homeschooled or then, perhaps, on-the-job. The single most important factor that molded you and the education you received, was the person that taught you.
Teaching is one of the most complicated jobs today. There’s always been an over-simplification about teaching and teachers. But if you pause and think, you’ll know that besides broad knowledge of the subject matter, curriculum, and standards, it needs enthusiasm, a caring attitude, a love for learning, coupled with a knowledge of discipline, management techniques and a desire to make a difference in the lives of young individuals. All this, sprinkled with the patience of a saint, a deep understanding of the human mind and a whole lot of intuition and empathy! Now find me a single person that can say, “It’s an easy ask!!” Having been an educator for 35 years, damn, I must be pretty awesome!
Going down memory lane, during those school growing days, we always had our favourite teachers. Boys would prefer the pretty teachers that taught mighty amazing things, none of which they’d remember five minutes post that class bell! There were those amazing teachers who made those geometrical angles and curves and vague concepts of algebra and physics seem easy to understand, from behind those large spectacle frames and over coiffured buns pinned onto their heads. There would always be one teacher who touched our lives the most – someone who made a terrifying syllabus fun, equations easy, history surprisingly interesting, and geography all about places you’d want to visit someday… someone who made going to school a joy, someone that could take a bad day and fill it with sunshine.
There are good teachers and there are great teachers. The difference is that great teachers not only understand the strength and the weaknesses of each student, but also expect that students can and will achieve in their classrooms. Great teachers engage and motivate students to look at issues in a variety of ways. They use facts as a starting point, not an end point. They form relationships with students that extend outside just the realm of teaching and make you realize that all learning is a lifelong process. Good teachers impart knowledge from textbooks, but great teachers help you acknowledge that life is the greatest teacher. They teach you about curiosity and learning, stumbling and challenges, failures and success, rejections and acceptance.
The greatest aspect of teaching is that teachers are also constantly learning. The essence of teaching lies in the understanding of human nature. If you’ve ever underestimated a teacher’s worth, I challenge you to manage just one class in her packed schedule! The start of a new school year is often a time of great trepidation, surprises, and stress. Understanding, reading and handling a new group of 30 and 40 defiant students is like playing a rough game of soccer. You never know when you will be caught blindsided or have the wind knocked out of you!
Disciplining those tiny terrors daily is akin to walking out on the battlefield, it takes guts. By and by, that initial loud firm voice and fixed stares give way to easy banter and tiny little angels emerge that look up to your every word. It’s a fan-following like no other – you feel like a celebrity, a hero! They cling onto your every word accepting authority as though you are conferring a favour on them. Placed on that pedestal, yours is a responsibility like none other.
As some of the most influential role models for developing students, teachers are responsible for more than just academic enrichment. Teachers change lives and that is not an exaggeration. If you want to be a great educator, you must connect with your students on multiple levels. The best teachers are committed to their students’ well-being, both – inside and outside of classrooms. By forging strong relationships, you influence lives, teaching them important life lessons that transgress beyond term papers and standardized tests. You spend your entire career learning the different ways in which you can change a student’s life. The three most important aspects that are always affected by great teachers are EDUCATION, INSPIRATION, and GUIDANCE.
Teachers are a trusted source of advice for students weighing in on important life decisions. Students often look to their teachers as mentors with experience and knowledge. As an educator, you will most definitely be asked for advice often in your career. You become their confidante and when the teacher-student relationship ends, you can perhaps even become a friend. There is no surefire recipe to being a good teacher. All a good teacher can do is inspire hope, ignite creativity and imagination and instill the love of learning.