Teaching is a profession fit for the gods. In what other profession is a person entrusted with hundreds of impressionable, gullible and vulnerable young minds and expected to make good human beings and citizens of the world out of them? It is a daunting task by any standards. And what’s more, you have to do it while being paid much less than those engineers who build roads, or doctors who repair your teeth. Teaching is not easy, but there are ways to survive and thrive in the profession, if you know a few tips.
How should a teacher look? Let us face it. Our society places a good deal of weight on how a person looks. It goes without saying that a good teacher is expected to look professional and wear clothes that are modest and not too flashy. The idea is that one is not expected to draw attention to the clothes one wears at work. Also, he or she is not expected to wear too many ornaments or sport fancy accessories. As far as facial expressions go, no one, neither students nor the school administration, not to mention the parents of students, appreciate a grumpy and frowning expression. In short, a teacher is expected to wear professional-looking attire and look pleasant as well as confident.
A teacher who behaves in a manner fitting to the profession is well-liked by all around. The ideal behaviour of a teacher in the classroom involves three main components: mutual respect, fair treatment and standard language. A teacher who respects students gets respected by them in return. Respect is shown in simple matters; for example, instead of saying ‘Write down’, one could say, ‘Please write down’. A teacher is in a position of power in the classroom, but those in power are more effective when they are polite and well-mannered. Secondly, an ideal teacher is a fair and just person. Favoritism is not tolerated by anyone. All students should be treated equally: the rich and the poor, the intelligent and the not-so-intelligent, the studious and the lazy. Finally, the language used by a teacher should be standard, not the ‘street variety’. Whatever be the provocation, there is no excuse to use foul language in the classroom.
No one is a walking encyclopedia or a dictionary, not even a teacher. However, that is no excuse for a teacher not to know his or her subject area very well. In fact, one of the qualities of the very best teachers is the willingness to be up-to-date in one’s subject area and to prepare for every single lesson, however experienced they are. There is no substitute for reading, researching on the internet or discussing with people who are more knowledgeable than oneself. It is really worthwhile to take membership in professional organizations and attend workshops and seminars frequently.
A good teacher is a hardworking teacher. Period. One cannot imagine a teacher who is lazy or lackadaisical. Teaching involves marking books, preparing lesson plans, preparing question papers, grading answer papers, reporting to parents and other stakeholders and a host of other related work, all of which are time-consuming and demanding. It is not a job for the fainthearted. Other hallmarks of a good teacher are effective organizational skills and time management. There should be files and folders for every scrap of paper, a never-ending supply of stationery always at hand, and a ‘to-do’ list of items that should be accomplished, on every teacher’s desk. Other must-have desk supplies for teachers include calendars, desk organizers, hand sanitizer and breath fresheners.
As they say, attitude is everything. A teacher has to believe in his or her students, and should be positive in outlook. A typical negative attitude is ‘These students are all stupid. It is no use trying to make them understand anything.’ A teacher who believes in this kind of defeatist philosophy is not fit to be called a teacher. God save students from such a teacher! A good teacher is one who remains positive in the face of the worst odds, be it in the form of bad behaviour from students, or poor performance in the examinations. Professionalism should characterize the interactions of a teacher with colleagues, students, parents of students and other stakeholders. Personal grouses, gossips, backbiting, jealousy, petty squabbles and selfishness have no place in an ideal teacher’s life.
So, our message to the teachers out there is to be armed with this survival kit, and you are good to go!