Being a teacher

Been thinking about what led me to teaching in the first place and how that led me in a fairly circuitous manner to India. The short story about how I ended up teaching is all about certain plans not coming to fruition and other unplanned encounters with students of all types made me realise how much I enjoy being in a class and really engaging people with ideas and pushing the boundaries of what can be learnt. In the few years that I have been teaching, I’ve experienced much frustration, joy and a bit of satisfaction in the process and I’m looking forward to more of the same. I’m basing this particular post on a pair of cartoons that I found about educators and their lives in general.

The almost serendipitous way in which I fell into teaching meant that I never got a teaching certificate, diploma or degree. In the realm of teaching I’m one of those teachers who exist on the fringes who skulk around educational institutions hoping nobody will ask them if they’re a ‘real’ or ‘certified’ teacher. While it’s good to be prepared to go into class, I don’t believe that having a certificate would naturally prepare a person to face a bunch of sometimes inquisitive and sometimes completely unmotivated students and make sure that they learn something at the end of the period. Certification is good to have but what’s more important is the willingness to stick one’s head out to try to do something for one’s students. Following what one learns in a teaching college may help but an educator grows into his or her role and cannot be made one through training. That’s not to say that teaching certificates are useless – but I’d just like to see a more open minded approach to education that allows for those who come through alternative routes to be recognised as ‘proper’ educators as well. After all, did the great teachers, rabbis and gurus of yore have teaching certificates? I think not.

The other thing about being an educator is the general societal perception of it as a vocation. The most common refrain that one hears about teaching is that it plays an important role in society but can be considered a low-paying ‘dirty’ job that not many people want to take on. Frequent rejoinders to this from the educators’ corner would include teachers enjoying satisfaction over money and the fact that teachers have shorter working hours. The reality is that neither is really true and that many teachers do get paid less than their equally qualified and competent peers, are often frustrated by being squashed between students, parents and the powers that bee and pull long ‘invisible’ hours grading outside school hours. So if things are so bad, why bother? The short answer to that echoes Irving’s ‘Because it’s there’ response to why he wanted to climb Everest – Because we can. We do it because we want to and also because for the most part, the act of teaching brings us a certain type of joy. It’s not the jump-in-the-fields kind of joy but of the fairly understated type that keeps us going without us even realising it.

I might be over-simplifying things a little and need these are the views of one slightly myopic and fairly idealistic educator who may not speak for the rest of teacherdom. Though he does hope that he does.

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10 Responses to “Being a teacher”


  1. 1 wa'hpn 27 June 2008 at 3:34 03

    I was randomly clicking around Wikipedia yesterday (I think I was reading something or other about paleontology, then it moved onto evolution), and somehow ended up here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passionist. It’s a Catholic order that “historically has had two primary goals: part missionary work and part contemplative life, with an attempt to blend the two” – seems to exemplify the life you’ve been living.

    I think teacherdom needs a huge compulsory dose of idealism. And idealism isn’t something that can be ‘taught’ by a teacher college. Perhaps through setting up teacher unions, though… 🙂 REFORMASI!

  2. 2 gymstan 27 June 2008 at 6:05 06

    I think the Jesuits do the same too, plus quite a number of them are teachers to boot. I guess that’s what draws me to such orders – the ability to be contemplative while doing something substantive in the world as well.

    We did want a proper teacher’s union. Remember RUF? We should also have a compulsory idealism test for teachers to be. They need to be sufficiently idealistic to become a teacher. Ahahah, the irony of it all.

  3. 3 jess 28 June 2008 at 10:02 10

    oh yes, RUF or FU 🙂 muahaha..

    “So if things are so bad, why bother?”

    Ans-

    Neo: Because I choose to. (familiar?) 😉

  4. 4 gymstan 28 June 2008 at 12:43 12

    Yes most familiar 🙂

    The very fact that we’re having this conversation shows that we have chosen and are more or less in it for the long run. Not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing…

  5. 5 wa'hpn 28 June 2008 at 11:08 11

    “Because anything else would be selling my soul.”

    except being a paleontologist. or a race-car driver. or a rock star. wahahahha

    Teaching just feels right. Right is good, right?

  6. 6 gymstan 30 July 2008 at 3:30 03

    Right is good. Good is right sometimes as well.

    Teaching does feel right. The other alternative would be to do what this personality test I took about 10 years back advised – to be a dictionary editor. I think I’ll stick to teaching.

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about the brushhead

had a head like a brush (it's more like an egg now). seeks to sweep through thought and faith with that brush. tries to wax philosophical but often forgets to wax off. trying to be good brush to all, while discerning what kind of brush he's meant to be.

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