One could never let the month of September pass by without thanking one’s teachers who opened the fenestra of learning. The adage “spare the rod and spoil the child” means that if one does discipline one’s children, their personal development will suffer. This maxim also underlines the significance of timely corrections, gentle reprimands, and some physical exertions to insist the importance of human formation. These were taken in good spirit and students reached greater heights without losing esteem for their teachers. Currently, “spare the rod and spoil the child” is understood literally. The rod is “spared,” and the child is “spoiled.”
Students are not receptive even to a slight harsh remark. Dealing with such millennial students leave the teachers in bewilderment. While we do not endorse corporal punishment and verbal abuse, we cannot ignore the sad plight of the helpless teachers. Any form of disapproval from the teachers could engender unpredictable and detrimental consequences. Main contributing factors to this predicament are “micro families” with over-protected children with little exposure, hyper-parenting, commercialisation of education, and more. Thus, the current scenario makes the investigation into the “nobility” of teaching mandatory.
A Noble Profession
Among the umpteen reasons contributing to the nobility of teaching, let us focus on a few. The popular maxim, “Matha Pitha Guru Deivam,” literally means “Mother Father Teacher God.” Our parents take us to the teacher-educator, who in turn points us to God. Teaching directly deals with the lives of the pupils who are entrusted to the formative and exemplary care of a teacher-educator. Teaching contributes to the overall development of the students; and guides them to become persons of integrity. Moreover, teaching is a call too, because teachers are like angels, leading their flocks out of darkness. As John Dewey asserts, school is a “miniature society,” where young representatives from society are prepared to live in it – with the help and accompaniment of the teacher-educator.
This safe and oft-opted “mother of all professions” undergoes an identity crisis due to the various unpleasant happenings in the arena of education in the recent past. The crisis makes meaninglessness, broken relationship, and depression inevitable in the lives of teachers. Having lost the traditional meaning of a guru, the present generation compromises values like esteem, obedience, humble service to teachers, and imbibing essential human values. Owing to the institutionalization and commercialisation of education, formation of values has pushed to the back seat. Thus, the severing of historical relation between the guru and disciple has affected the identity of teaching/teacher. Furthermore, the exposure of the Gen Z learners to different platforms of easy learning, introduction of super-brain coaches into schools, and the pervasive tuition centres have left the teaching profession fragmented.
Ancient education went beyond mere transference of information, making teaching a way of living to face life. Some present-day teachers struggle to integrate education with teaching. The concentration is more on stuffing students’ brains with information to gain higher grades, paying little attention to their overall development. When one is a teacher-educator, s/he accompanies students as a “fellow-traveller” as Dewey says. Hence, teachers have to elevate themselves to being an educator. Being a teacher-educator involves having an awareness of self and others, and possessing some qualities of an ideal teacher. While a teacher ‘informs’ students, an educator ‘forms’ them.
This title refers to (i) a teacher playing the role of a parent, and (ii) the teacher-parent bond. A teacher needs to be second parent to the young student – born again in a school – who comes from a unique background. “Students who are loved at home, come to school to learn; and students who aren’t, come to school to be loved.” A teacher-parent corrects the pupils when they go wrong like what they do on their own children.
The teacher-parent bonding is important for the holistic development of the students, as both have an immense contribution and responsibility in shaping the child’s personality. “Parents are the teachers at home and teachers are the parents at school.” While parents introduce their children to early-childhood skills, the teachers nurture children’s learning and mould them to be responsible and independent. When teachers and parents entertain a relationship of trust, understanding, and support, the students will exhibit a remarkable positive change.
The core of education is the teacher-student relationship. That is the reason why we remember those teachers who make a difference in our life. In a positive teacher-student relationship, the student is not overly dependent on the teacher; the teacher pays individual attention, believes in students’ ability to learn, albeit differently and at different rates; and keeps the relationship conflict-free.
On their part, the students need to be open, humble, respectful, obedient, disciplined, hardworking, meeting deadlines, allowing themselves to be guided, and know the purpose of education. The students should also understand that a teacher demands good behaviour out of love for them. Teacher’s intention behind the action has to be valued and appraised. When the teacher-student boundary is maintained, that relationship becomes impeccably growth promoting.
An Ideal Teacher…
• is a beautiful communicator.
• listens well.
• is confident, open, honest, optimistic, creative, approachable and kind.
• not only teaches, but also motivates and inspires.
• focuses on collaboration.
• entertains student-centred learning.
• regularly prepares lesson-plans.
• creates safe, comfortable, and student-friendly environment.
• involves innovative techniques and technologies.
• extends timely appreciation.
• has the art of classroom management.
• integrates the current happenings meaningfully.
• is adaptable to evolving environments.
• shows respect and values individuality.
• instils a sense of belonging in students.
• has a sense of humour and admits mistakes.
• avoids comparisons.
• identifies students’ talents and skills.
• gives friendly corrections.
• thinks outside the box.
• exhibits empathy.
• visits the homes of students.
• intimates the progress of students to parents.
• keeps the secrets of students.
• has patience with students and colleagues.
• offers helpful feedback and second chances.
• has passion for continued learning.
Challenges of a Teacher
As the 21st century education is ever dynamic, the teacher-educator has the opportunity and responsibility to make a huge impact on students which poses many challenges. (i) New breakthrough in technology and the fresh approaches in pedagogy – especially in the post-Covid scenario – has transformed the phenomenon of teaching, making it an arduous task for teachers. (ii) Creating a healthy bond with the students who come from varied backgrounds is imperative. (iii) Understanding the different learning abilities and capacities of the students is the biggest challenge, calling for special attention to the slow and differently-abled learners. (iv) “Bad” behaviour of students is always a serious concern, expecting the teachers to employ well-informed means and strategies to tame down the unruly behaviour of students, especially by spending quality time. (v) Since education has become a big “corporate business,” a teacher needs to be a bridge between the Management-Parent-Student, by being accountable to the management, and meeting the expectation of students and parents.
Being a Meaningful Teacher
Given the challenges, we realize the importance of “formation” to teachers. They need to be empowered intellectually, technologically, digitally, socially, and emotionally to address the ever-expanding demands of pedagogy. They need to be masters in multi-tasking such as classroom teaching, student appraisal, curriculum designing in addition to up-skilling and re-skilling themselves to face the higher standards of being a teacher-educator in the 21st century. Above all, teachers need to realize, as Sidney Hook observes, “Everyone who remembers her/his own education remembers teachers because the teacher is the heart of the educational system.” It may be easy to be a successful teacher, but to be an educator, one needs to be a meaningful teacher which entails more than imparting knowledge, inspiring change, or rather being an inspiration.