TODAY -

The Sublime Role Of A Teacher In The Society

Rev. Fr. Stephen Touthang *

Children of KG grade listening to a class teacher in rapt attention on the first day of class resumption after four months' closure in January 2010
Children of KG grade listening to a class teacher in rapt attention on the first day of class resumption after four months' closure in January 2010 :: Pix - Hueiyen Lanpao



"I am indebted to my parents for living but to my teacher for living well."
- Alexander the Great

The indispensable role of a teacher

Teaching is the noblest of all professions in the world. This is because teaching is the only one profession that gives birth to all other professions -doctor, engineer, scientist, artist, soldier, lawyer, etc. All have to pass through the bosom of a teacher at least some times in one's life. There is no escape from the life of a teacher. Remove a teacher from the society and you have nothing.

Teachers are the catalyst of change

The society is in the hands of teachers. The kind of teachers we have will determine the kind of society we have. They are the catalyst of change in the society. The great revolutions that brought about tremendous social change in history began with a systematic pedagogy. Mao Zedong made it compulsory in all the Chinese schools that students must be taught to recite: "there is no God" three times as they begin the school every day. Hitler made it mandatory for the German schools to teach students that they (Germans) were of a superior race.

The consciousness of the Arab spring is the result of computer nerds and wizards, who taught everyone how to use the social media like facebook, twitter etc., for exchange of ideas. Teachers' influence is so enormous as Henry Adams puts it: "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." Students trust their teachers more than their parents. What is taught wrongly by a teacher cannot be corrected by parents.

The dual role of a teacher

A teacher has a dual role to play - to impart knowledge (head) and to impart values (heart). A teacher is responsible for the training of the head and the heart. Like the funambulist, the teacher must well balance between the training of the head and the heart. I would say training of the heart must be emphasized more as it is the need of the hour. Our education system today has stressed so much on the intellect (head) that the heart is struggling to function. The role of the heart is being stifled.

Winston Churchill says, "The first duty of a university is to teach wisdom, not trade; character, not technicalities." Knowledge without values leads to pride which the society always rejects. A person with high knowledge without values will begin to feel that he is the only educated and learned person in the society. This is very dangerous trend. Antithetically, a person rich in values is always humble and he knows that all his learning is because of the contribution made by others and he in turn tries his best to help others. Such is the person who makes the society a better place.

Therefore, a teacher must be rich in values first and foremost. Without values our society would be a miserable place to live in. Civilization gradually evanesces where there is decadence of values. Theodore Roosevelt says, "To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."

An 'educated person' is the brainchild or the end-product of a teacher

A teacher forms and trains a pupil in a wholesome manner and when the pupil is able to put into practice all that has been taught he/she can be called as "educated". One of the best discourses on 'who is an educated person' is given by Socrates, the seer or the old. This is what he says:
Whom, then, do I call educated?
First, those who manage well the circumstances which they encounter day by day; and those who can judge situations appropriately as they arise and rarely miss the suitable course of action. Next, those who are honorable in their dealings with all men, bearing easily what is unpleasant or offensive in others and being as reasonable with their associates as is humanly possible. Furthermore, those who hold their pleasures always under control and are not unduly overcome by their misfortunes, bearing up under them bravely and in a manner worthy of our common nature.

Most important of all, those who are not spoiled by their successes, who do not desert their true selves, but hold their ground steadfastly as wise and sober-minded men, rejoicing no more in the good things that have come to them through chance in those which through their own nature and intelligence are theirs since birth. Those who have a character which is in accord not with one of these things but with all of them, these are educated - possessed of all the virtues.

An educated person primarily does not refer to a person who has a high IQ. Merely having a high IQ does not determine the value of your education. It constitutes only a fraction of it. True education is an all round development. In the all round development, I think character occupies the most important place, without character all other learning comes to naught. Character is the sum total of positively good values. In other words, character is a manifestation of virtues that are being cultivated in the person by the person. Good character is a virtuous manifestation of one's life.

Why become a teacher?

If a person wants to become a teacher the first quality one should possess is: love the students above everything. All other things are secondary. Your student is your top priority. In other words, your student is your 'everything'. For some, remuneration or some other parameters top the priority scheme. If student is not your priority you need to reconsider your thoughts about becoming a teacher. Because this will do more harm than good. Teaching should never be a last option. Teaching is a laetificative and fulfilling experience for those who love students but a big impedimenta for those who have no love.

So, if you have no sincere love for students never choose to become a teacher. In the same manner, some people start opening new schools based on the profit it would bring in. If you start a school for money, you will never be fulfilled and successful. According to the Indian Constitution, school is never considered as a business enterprise but as a charitable institution. It is a non-profit organization. School is not meant for profit making. Do not profane the sanctity of school.

Today, people want government jobs but not government schools for education. Teachers are recruited through fraudulent means. Many teachers do not qualify the standard set by the government and duty-consciousness is stark missing. School is such a holy place - 'a learning temple' but profaned by corruption and substandard teachers. How can you expect a good society emerging from a corrupt education system?

A teacher has only one objective: to better the students

All the actions of a teacher are geared towards this one objective - to better the students. Therefore, the singular aim of a teacher is to ameliorate the students intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically. If this objective is not clear in a teacher, it will have a lot of negative repercussions on the students. Never lose sight of your objective. When you teach, when you chide, when you correct or when you interact, always remember all that you do is meant to better and elevate them and not to give vent to your emotions. One of the areas where many teachers have failed miserably is "correcting the erring student". In many cases, correction ends up in misunderstanding and rancour. Students are not dustbin for throwing one's emotional hurts and inadequacies.

The fact that some students are hard to handle is a challenge for the teacher to equip himself or herself with better skills to tackle such students. The teacher needs to update not only intellectually but in the skills of handling disruptive students too. Thanks to RTE for doing away with corporal punishment and psychological harassment of students in schools. I have heard many teachers reacting to this, that without some sort of corporal punishment or at least exuding some kind fear in them, it is impossible to maintain discipline or improve the students. This reaction is because the teachers in general are not prepared with the necessary skills to handle the indiscipline students. I deeply believe the premise that 'human beings can be formed or trained without corporal punishment and psychological harassment'. But to prove this premise into an axiom one needs a thorough preparation. If you can form a person without corporal punishment and psychological harassment, you are an excellent human trainer. This is what I think is the idea behind RTE.

An Ideal Teacher always walks 'the Extra Unpaid Miles'

Walking the 'extra unpaid miles' demonstrates the teacher's love, dedication and commitment to his/her students. I have seen some teachers in some schools who are not willing to walk the 'extra unpaid miles'. They think that doing something EXTRA is not in commensuration with their salary. Such teachers perform their duty according to the size of their salary. But there are also some of them, who of their own initiative walk the 'unpaid extra miles' every day. Let us take an example of walking the 'unpaid extra miles'. After solving a mathematical problem in a class, the teacher asks the students, "Do you understand?" and a few students reply, "No".

Then the teacher explains once again for the sake of those few students. After explaining twice or thrice, there are still some slow learners who are not able to grasp. The teacher at the same time cannot go on explaining the same problem in the class as he or she has the obligation to cover the prescribed syllabus. So, the teacher identifies those slow learners and after the class gives his or her extra time to explain and make them understand. Here, the teacher is walking the 'extra unpaid miles'. The teacher gives his or her EXTRA (time, knowledge etc.) for which the teacher does not received any reward. The teacher does out of love for his or her students. Another example, a teacher upbraids a student for disrupting the class. The teacher realizes that the student is getting hurt in spite of being the student's mistake.

The teacher out of concern for the student personally meets the student and explains to him why he chided him and consoles him and makes him understand. This is walking 'extra unpaid miles'. There are umpteen areas where a teacher can walk the 'extra unpaid miles'. If a teacher cannot do this, he will be only an information disseminator.

A Teacher must differentiate between Cheap popularity and Real popularity

Many teachers today fall for cheap popularity than real popularity. Let me cite one real example: one day a student of Cl. IX B started for school but instead of coming to school he went and roamed with friends in the market. When the final school bell of the day began to peel forth, he just walked into the school campus stealthily to show that he attended the class. But to his bad luck a teacher on duty detected him. The next day I sent for the parents. I met the child's father and asked him, "Do you know where your child had gone yesterday? "No", he replied. Then I explained what had happened. After that he requested me to meet that teacher who detected the student's truancy?" I said, "Yes".

When the teacher came, he said to him, "Thank you so much Sir, for your concern about my son!" I narrated this incident and appreciated that teacher in the next staff meeting and explain what he did. I think this is a Real Popularity. This teacher also had the chance to grab 'cheap popularity' in the same situation. The teacher instead of catching the student could have pretended not to see so that he could preserve his popularity from that student. He could have said to himself, "It is not necessarily my personal duty to catch that student; if I do that I can become unpopular among my students". For fear of losing one's popularity he could have condoned such an act of the student. If the teacher had acted this way then he would be running after 'Cheap Popularity'.

Cheap popularity is a compromise that preserves the good name of a teacher but harms the good of the student. Cheap popularity is appreciated for the moment, but later the students themselves will curse such teacher for not doing their duty. Cheap popularity destroys students. Many teachers run after cheap popularity when they are not in good terms with the school authority.

There are so many areas where a teacher can make many compromises if he or she wants to be popular among the students. This attitude is harmful to the wholesome growth of the students. Teachers who get real popularity are those who demand from students what they are supposed to do, they don't compromise on principles, they are just and impartial in their dealings, they foresee the future of every student and works towards that. They are the ones whose inspiration continues. This type of teachers is not very popular for the moment but when the students grow up they value so much about such teachers. Here, the teacher's influence affect eternity - continues to live on, inspires on. Such teachers will never be forgotten.

The role of teachers in ancient India

Once a shyshya (student) was asked, "If you meet your Guru and the deity on the road, whom you will do your obeisance first?" The shyshya answered, "My Guru, because without my Guru, I will never know who the deity is!" This sums up the sacred and sublime role of a teacher. Since ancient times, the role of a Guru was to lead his shyshya to God. The Guru's role was to show the WAY. It was the WAY of the virtues. Therefore, they stress values - non-violence, honesty, love, compassion, hospitality etc. It was first of all training in virtues. To build a peaceful society, we need to relive our ancient values. A teacher has a gargantuan role to play.

A Few Criteria for Evaluating the Authenticity of a Teacher

1. Punctuality: An ideal teacher is punctual in everything - punctual to the ssschool, punctual to the class and punctual to place of his/her assigned duty.
2. Preparing a Lesson Plan: Preparing a lesson plan is must for every teacher. This is not merely jotting down few points to be taught in the class. It is a mock teaching session in which you practice at home what you will teach and how you will teach your students. There is always a difference between being prepared and being unprepared. A teacher should never teach without being prepared.
3. Teaching Performance: There are different methods and techniques of teaching different subjects. The ideal teacher knows which methods and techniques are effective in the teaching-learning process. He or she knows the needs of students.
4. Classroom Management: This speaks about how well the teacher manages the classroom while teaching. It is creating a conducive atmosphere for teaching and learning. In the process of teaching the teacher identifies the different types of students - clever, average, or slow learners, passive students, hyperactive students etc. In other words, the teacher has to take cognizance of individual difference. A deeper peep into these problems and how you tackle them will speak about who you are as a teacher.
5. Strong Sense Responsibility and Duty: As a teacher, you will be assigned some responsibilities in the school. How do you take and perform your duties and responsibilities will speak about your identity as a teacher.
6. A Model Within and Without the School campus: A teacher's cardinal function is to teach. Therefore, he or she must teach in both words and action - theory and practice must coalesce. His teaching is not limited to the school campus. A teacher must teach the students wherever he or she is by his or her good example. How can a teacher behaves so nicely in the school campus but outside drinks, fights and indulges in other bad habits? How can a student emulate such a teacher? Remember, a teacher teaches everywhere.

* If these basic criteria are not fulfilled by a person, he or she cannot be a teacher.


* Rev. Fr. Stephen Touthang wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao / The Sangai Express
The writer is M.A. (Eng.), M.A. (Socio.) M.Ed. & NET (UGC)
This article was posted on July 19, 2014.


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