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.