To mark the occasion of Teacher’s Day, we asked a few teachers to tell us what they like best about their job
A great believer in education, the second President of India, and a great teacher, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was asked by few of his students and friends if they could celebrate his birthday. Dr Radhakrishnan’s response was, “Instead of celebrating my birthday separately, it would be my proud privilege if 5th September is observed as Teachers Day.”
From then onwards, the day is observed as Teacher’s Day in India, as a mark of tribute to the contribution made by teachers to society.
Every year on Teacher’s Day, school children in India are busy presenting cards to their favourite teachers and making their day special. We adults fondly remember our teachers who made us what we are today.
To mark the occasion at Indian Link, we asked a few teachers what makes this profession so special to them.
Learning for life
I teach in both Australia and Vietnam, and I teach students in high schools, pre-service teachers in university, and academic school staff in several schools. Across this diversity of people and contexts, I have noticed that the things I love are common to all settings.
Knowing subject matter very well and researching to be up-to-date and to keep my mind active. The changing nature of teaching and assessment, the technological and funding challenges, mean that creative strategies must be found to engage and mentor.
One of the most important things that keeps me alert is the need to listen ‘inside’ the words. Teachers can effect change by not allowing mere content and assessments to determine ‘value’. These are so small in the scheme of life. I am inspired most by students who work hard even when only small gains are evident.
I believe that the focus on critical and creative thinking must premise assessment that is creative – including open book exams and tasks that use technologies in real time.
I am lucky enough to work in the supplementary education (private tutoring) sector and publishing sectors as well.
It inspires me to see how tutoring can become more accessible to low-income families and students who have low levels of literacy and or numeracy. I am very disappointed that the government does not engage with private tutors in creative and accountable ways to support our most needy students. Surely, in education, narrow sectoral interests should not predominate over supporting 20% of all children – the most disadvantaged children in the country.
If any teachers find their work easy, then they are in the wrong profession. Even experienced teachers must continually push themselves to role-model learning for life.
The science of influencing young minds
My husband and I have just moved into our new apartment in a retirement village.
By ‘directed coincidence’, I was opening my Pymble Ladies’ College carton, when I received this request for ‘the memories of teaching’ for Indian Link.
My magical box was filled with warm memories of my twenty five years as a science teacher.
Out popped the trilogy of science plays I had specially written for the 75th anniversary of the college, based on the lives of Galileo, Louis Pasteur and Marie Curie. After the students performed the play in the open air amphitheatre – as a multi-sensory imaginative experience – I walked them through to David Malin’s astro photo exhibition ‘Birth and Death of Stars and Galaxies’ and then straight to the lawns to peer through a telescope to view the rings of Saturn!
But more precious still, was a letter from one of my HSC students which conveyed something that means so much to a teacher – winning the affirmation, respect and love of students.
This student wrote, “I believe all of the many improvements I have made, not only in my studies, but in my approach to life, is due to you. You gave me confidence and the reassurances that I could achieve whatever I set my heart on, and for this I will always be in your debt. You were not only a great teacher but a friend to me, someone I could always count on!”
To all teachers who deftly weave the knowledge gained from their own teachers and wisdom of their country into their teaching curricula, my best regards.
As a teacher, I love to learn
I facilitate thinking,
I engage minds,
I listen to questions,
I support struggle,
I cultivate dreams,
I learn everyday,
A teacher touches so many lives and so many hearts. The best part of my job as a teacher is to know that I will learn wonderful new things every day, as I seek to touch young, tender and impressionable minds. The thought itself is enough to drive me through the rigmarole of drawing elaborate lesson plans, organising sequential activities and implementing a meaningful learning experience for my beloved students, day after day.
I love my students for their ever-seeking spirit, their unleashed creativity, their fresh perspective on all mundane ideas and their infinite capacity to analyse the world through their inquisitiveness.
The fact that my students spend the most productive hours of their day with me, makes me feel an important part of their lives.
Looking back at my own growing years, I have vivid memories of those important people in my life that were there at many cornerstone moments – my teachers.
I hope there will be many that look back at their lives and find me at some small crucial moment.
I’m an artist
I see teaching as an art: a platform provided to me to make a difference with my creativity.
When I am in class, I experience a mixture of ‘authority’ and ‘responsibility’. Authority is not an issue here, but the significant question is “How do I fulfil my responsibility?” For me, the answer to this question lies in my creative sense. The school provides a platform where I can use my creativity in its full potential, despite the fact that I am bound by the curriculum standards, a set time-frame and school rules. Music, high use of effective visuals, thoughtful and meaningful conversations with the students on different topics, drama and poetry… These things can be seen in my classroom at any given point of time. This is my pedagogy that keeps me active and involved.
Teaching is an innate experience of transmitting knowledge from one person to another. It requires all your assets – mind, body, values and spirit. The realisation that I am using my creative spirit in changing children’s learning experiences, is important for me. This is the very essence of my teaching experience.
Getting them to fly
The best thing about teaching is perennially being in the awesome zone of learning and intrinsic rewards, like ‘seeing’ the synapses and neurons connecting, thoughts being formed, the person becoming better, and a smile cracking across a student’s face and the sparkle in their eyes as that ‘a ha’ moment occurs!
It’s about the former student who says being in your class changed her life. It’s about another telling you that you were the teacher who inspired him to read. Writers, historians, professors, journos, fighter pilots, doctors, lawyers, biz whiz kids, NGO workers, film directors, amazing chefs, sport stars, graphic designers, musicians, fashion designers… the list goes on…The one common thread here is that they were all in my class.
What is beautiful is that they may be pushing forty, but when we meet, they are like the teenagers they once were as we met in my class!
It’s a ‘parent’ moment to see these young adults take their first steps into the world with confidence, and you know you did your bit to help them get those wings to fly.
It’s about the craft of teaching not for the money but because we truly enjoy it and we want to be there every day… trying to strike the creative balance between being a dictator on the one hand and a pushover on the other, depending on the circumstances.
I can’t imagine doing anything else because this job gives me the opportunity of creating a legacy of lifelong learners. These ‘young uns’, even after more than quarter of a century, still want me to be a part of their lives!