The thing about being a teacher is that no matter how reluctantly you may have become one in the first place, it eventually becomes so much a part of you that you couldn’t imagine what life would have been like otherwise.
This of course does not mean that most of us go into the profession reluctantly. In fact, many of the teachers that I have met became teachers because they wanted to. But the reasons that make them stay on despite the many factors urging them to leave do not just revolve around job security or a lack of alternatives.
An MRSM Beseri teacher cheering as her school is announced upper secondary champion in the RHB-The Star Mighty Minds state challenge in Perlis. — G.C. Tan/ The Star
Rather, it is because teaching has seeped so deeply into their being that they themselves may not realise it.
And that primarily is why, despite all the complaints, the paperwork, the unfulfilled promises, the lack of transparency and a myriad other reasons pointing us in other directions, most of us still hold on to our jobs and give it the best we are able to.
At this point, there will doubtless be some sceptical eyebrows raised and cynical sniggers with stories of how utterly incompetent and uncommitted certain teachers were; and that given half the chance, most teachers would quit and move on to something else — that is, if they had something else.
While that may be true for some, it does not represent the majority.
When all is said and done, when the cards are on the table and we know exactly what is or isn’t in store for us, there is something else that keeps us here as teachers. And this something else is not about the remuneration or the prospects of promotion which are few and far between.
Not about the money
Those of us in national schools will from time to time come across people who find it is their duty to remind us how much those in the private sector are making and how it is no point giving so much of ourselves when the rewards go to people less deserving.
The irony here is if you open your mouth to air any grievances you may have about the increasing work-load, the endless and redundant paperwork or deficiencies in the curriculum, the very same people will now remind you how fortunate you are to have a “half-day” job and so many holidays in between.
Ultimately though, it is not about the rewards or lack of them. Neither is it about the relative ‘stability’ of a government job. As for half-day jobs and holidays, we teachers know that died out long ago with the dinosaurs. Also, it is not just about the money.
What is it then that keeps most of us going, and what keeps the balance? What are the redeeming factors of the teaching profession that continue to recharge our sometimes depleted spirits and fill us with fresh hope each day?
For most of us who have been around for some time, the answer lies in the unique bond we have with our students. It is a link that is exclusive to the teaching profession, whether all of us teachers acknowledge its presence or not.
It is this factor above all others that makes teachers who they are. It defines them. It is also this that gets to you eventually and becomes part of you — sometimes, without you even realising it.
This is what causes you to feel your students’ successes and failures as if it were your own.
This is also what makes you wait on the side with bated breath and racing pulse, for the judges to pronounce their verdict on your team’s performance in school competitions.
And even when we know for sure that the students we teach have no way of making the minimum grade in an examination, it doesn’t prevent us from hoping against hope that they will make it.
But it doesn’t take away the pang of dismay when results are announced and they have not made it. It also doesn’t stop the inevitable question that rises in our own minds about whether we could have made it better for them in some way. That’s the thing about being a teacher.
Even after you’ve just come out from the most notorious class of students vowing to everyone within hearing range that from that moment on you have “washed your hands off them” and that you didn’t care whether they all quit school or got arrested, by the following week, you enter the class once again with renewed hope and possibly a revised strategy for getting their attention.
The slightest indication of a student’s improvement never fails to evoke a feeling of accomplishment and pleasure. Call us easy pushovers, soppy, mushy or overly sentimental, we don’t really care, because we are the ones who get to experience this exquisite feeling of having been part of the journey.
Yes, we sometimes have unfair workloads. We sometimes have people over us who use us for their own professional agenda. And yes, we sometimes have to face students who seem to specialise in making our lives miserable!
Occasionally, we also have to work with colleagues who profess that they don’t do anything beyond the bare minimum because “What’s the point? We’re not going to get anything anyway.”
If you scratch the surface of that comment, you may not be surprised to find that it comes from those who never did more than the minimum to begin with. Yet the heart of a real teacher perseveres, even when the odds are against us.
We persevere even when we get tired and discouraged and when we see all our efforts unappreciated or, even worse, not even acknowledged. And we hurt when the students we are trying so hard to educate do not seem to show any form of appreciation at all.
But that’s the thing about the teacher’s heart. It is tough, it is resilient, it bounces back, ready to begin again no matter how many times we get knocked off the ring.
Perhaps child psychologist and school teacher Haim G. Ginott says it best in the following words: “Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times they accomplish this impossible task.”
Source:The Star Education TEACHER TALK By MALLIKA VASUGI Sunday, July 17, 2011