George Bernard Shaw once wrote that ‘He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches’. It is an often-misquoted line that has since been used to justify a negative perception of teachers, and the career of teaching in general. These people are apparently failures in their chosen fields, so they fall back on teaching. Aside from the fact that some of the world’s greatest minds were teachers (George Orwell, Stephen Hawking), there is no disputing just how important a teacher is to any society. It is easy to overlook this fact, until you think about just how many roles a teacher plays in a child’s life.
A teacher is, all at once, an instructor, a parent, a friend, a role model. Gone are the days when a teacher’s job was simply to keep their students in class for the stipulated period, to present educational material to them in a standardized manner and be on their way. Back then, a teacher was elderly, stern and aloof, standing in front of the classroom and lecturing students for an hour or so. A lot has changed since then. Today, we acknowledge that our children need much more than someone who blandly presents information to them. Kids spend more time with teachers than guardians; it is fitting that they have taken up much bigger roles with regard to their growth and maturity.
The second parents
The teacher is a parent away from home. While it is not necessary to engage with your student beyond the professional level, it is essential to nurture a close relationship with each individual student. The reasoning behind this is simple; if you get to know your student, their abilities and character, you will know how best to tailor the lessons to suit them.
A teacher has the responsibility of not only teaching, but also making sure their students are proper, socially competent individuals. When at school, it is up to the teacher to instruct a student on right or wrong, good and bad. Discipline is up to them. More than anywhere else in their life, a student learns about actions and consequences in school.
Just like parents, teachers often challenge their students to get the best out of them. And at the end of the day, a student’s success means just as much to them.
My teacher, my BFF
A personal relationship with students is better than a professional one. Cultivating a personal relationship with a student creates a dynamic which can only be beneficial to both parties. If a student sees their teacher as a friend, they are likelier to confide in them. It will also be easier for the teacher to communicate with the student and set them straight when they need it. Whenever a student has a problem that they feel they cannot share with mum or dad, they will run to their teacher. It is important, however, to ensure this relationship is grounded in respect, otherwise boundaries that should not be crossed may be blurred.
Learning from experience
A teacher’s influence is felt through each stage of a child’s development, from the moment they set foot in school to the time when, as young adults, they graduate. For the child, a teacher is a veritable well of experience. They were there before; they have lived through what that child is going through, so they understand it and can relate to them. They serve as an excellent barometer for what the student should aspire to be when they grow up. Take for example, students learning Literature from a published author. The teacher has invaluable insights into what it takes to make it to where they are.
Similarly, a young person can learn a lot about life from their interaction with their teachers. As a constant presence in a child’s life, a teacher is uniquely placed to shape their future life, so their impact cannot be understated.
Teaching is therefore one of the noblest professions out there. To have the ability to mold young minds, to be responsible for imparting knowledge as well as life lessons, is a privilege. The truth is, a teacher can influence a young mind so deeply and not even be aware of it. It is immensely fulfilling to know you played a role in someone’s life, making them ready to face the future, or even made them aware of their unique ability.
Not everyone can be a teacher. It is a difficult, often thankless job. Nay, it is a calling. It requires selflessness, because a good teacher always puts their students first. The challenges are plenty: dealing with a lot of different personalities on a regular basis, not to mention the constant workload. But it has its perks. If nothing else, then a teacher in always in the presence of unique young people whose perspectives and creativity they can also learn from. There is also the small matter of learning all the cool new slang firsthand.
Ultimately, though, there is nothing more rewarding than the knowledge that your influence made someone who they are today. It is the purest gift anyone can get.
Teachers need the support and appreciation of everyone, so they can continue to do God’s work.