Published in The Border Mail on 27th July 2020 as ‘Education is a journey that should never end’
A teacher’s job is to inculcate a love for learning and not just teach a single subject or a skill. How many of us think like that? Not many. But if we read this statement one more time, it will start to make sense. In these modern times of globalisation and uncertainty, the words learning and growth are synonymous. We can no more say that ‘we finished our education in so and so year’ like the generation before us. We can no more say that if we hold an undergraduate or post graduate degree or even a doctorate, we have learnt it all to conquer the world. Our circumstances are forever changing, triggering a change in information. Innovation is constantly challenging the previous research and knowledge. We can’t expect to succeed unless we embark on a continuous journey of learning.
Pre-school or primary school is the place where our formal learning begins. If teachers in early years develop positive mindsets towards acquiring knowledge than half the battle is won. Can you sell some one something that you wouldn’t buy yourself? Can you convince someone to do something that you don’t do yourself? No, you can’t. Because you lack the passion and the experience to lead by example. In this context, if our teachers don’t have a love for learning in themselves, they can’t inculcate it in their students. When we are passionate about a cause or thing, it is contagious for others. Teachers should have a yearning so deep for their own learning that it may influence their students’ behaviours and choices. When a teacher gets excited while teaching a mathematical concept to students, it excites them too. When a teacher debates an author’s stance on an issue in a novel with passion, the students reciprocate with the same enthusiasm. If we are lame, the students will be lame. If we don’t value education, our students will not value it either. If we think the curriculum is not interesting, they will not find it interesting either.
There is never anything elaborately wrong with a system or a curriculum. There is always eons of research and expertise involved in creating it. What we teach is only as intriguing as we present it to be. The only thing keeping our students from learning is our inability to appreciate and value what we do. Our job is to make our students to want to learn. We have to tell them that they ‘can do it’. We have to teach them that to stretch themselves in order to learn. We need to model our expectations for them. Give the wrong answer and then look up for the correct one. Accept that you don’t know something and then find out together with your students. Figure things out yourself! Don’t give up and your students will not give up either.
Tasting success only once will lead you to a stage where learning becomes exhilarating. This will automatically create intrinsic motivation, where you will study to gain knowledge and wisdom, and not just numbers. Remember, teaching is about helping children grow. It is about empowering them to set their own learning intentions and goals. This is where they will assess and edit their own work.
Ask yourself, “WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT TODAY?” A great teacher learns something from her students and her surroundings every day. She is in a reciprocal relationship with her students in terms of learning. If the student and the teacher both dynamically get together to work towards a common goal then they grow together.
Therefore, all professional development for teachers should be based on teaching teachers to learn and not teaching teachers to teach or know. How can we expect our students to develop higher order thinking skills if our teachers don’t have them? How can someone who doesn’t have a high level of cognition develop it in their students?
Robert Quinn states in his book ‘The best teacher in you’ – “As a teacher develops the capacity to think and act in more complex ways, his or her effectiveness increases because effectiveness is a function of being in the present and learning to adapt and create in real time. The objective is for the teacher to acquire adaptive confidence and transformational influence.”
It’s not criticism. It’s just motivation from one teacher to another to wake up ‘the best teacher in you’. Because on your shoulders lies the heavy onus of nurturing and flourishing the shared future of the entire nation.
I would like to end with Parker Palmer’s words from ‘The Courage to Teach’
“No punishment anyone lays on you could possibly be worse than the punishment you lay on yourself by conspiring in your own diminishment. With that insight comes the ability to open cell doors that were never locked in the first place.”