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Sunday, January 8, 2012

No Greater Vocation

Romans 12:7 “If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well.” (NLT)

Being a teacher must be the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition. Many seek to work in schools even though they could make a lot more money in the private industry. A few are there because of the meager paycheck and the security of a pension. They would be failures wherever they worked and the tragedy is not with these few  misguided mentors but with the children who have to suffer in their classroom. Yet another male teacher was recently caught abusing his very young female students, giving all of us who love our vocation a very bad name. But they are the exception and bad apples are found even among coaches in prestigious colleges or among politicians who aspire at a seat in the White House (sarcasm intended).
equation on boardSome of the best teachers in history never had a classroom or a blackboard; Socrates, Confucius, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, all lived what they taught and taught what they lived. And so it is with genuine teachers, including preachers who should also be leading by example.

Authentic Human Beings

Teachers, good teachers, know that their students are quite capable of detecting phoniness. They much prefer a person who says "I don't know, but I'll find out" than one who pretends to be omniscient. Children under 10 in particular have a special skill that seems to disappear when they become adults: They are incapable of malice by nature; if they lie to the teacher, it means that they lie to their parents and that they learned the habit in the family. If these kids are vicious and aggressive, they reflect their life experiences and simply use defense mechanisms. Fortunately, most elementary kids are open and frank and quite willing to trust their teacher. By the way, there is no bigger crime than to abuse that trust. Once a child's innocence has been violated , it will be very difficult to heal him or her. They expect their teachers to be authentic human beings.

Establishing Bonds

Parents should be aware of their children's reactions to a specific teacher, particularly at the elementary level. Schools very seldom agree to match students with their educator and yet the need is there. Just as professional football players respond better to a head coach than to others, so students' personalities sometimes clash with their teacher's. I clearly remember having my worst year in school in 4th grade with a male teacher who believed in running a military academy. My constant questions annoyed him as they disrupted his carefully laid plans. He failed to notice that I wanted to learn more and that asking why is the way to discover the truth. No bonding was possible between him and me, though some of my classmates thrived under his guidance.

If a parent notices that her son or daughter is not progressing and seems uncomfortable with a specific teacher, she should approach the counselor or the principal and ask about the possibility of moving her child to another classroom. I recently did exactly that with one of my special education students in high school; academically challenged kids are much more sensitive to human relations and require, just like a beautiful rose, constant care. I put her with another teacher who knows how to nurture students with special needs. My student is now doing very well.

Only For A Couple Of Hours

The other day I watched a reporter doing a piece on local schools; she was interviewing teachers and insinuating that their job was really not that difficult with the added bonus of long vacations. The educator, an elementary third grade teacher, suggested that the reporter take over her class for a couple of hours to get a "feel" of what it means to control and guide 27 kids. The dare was accepted and the journalist then related her experience; she was glad when the experiment was over. She realized what an exhausting job teachers are doing day in and day out. There are many rewards, yes, but also many heart-breaking moments. Some people just can't take it.

Parents, make sure you establish a good rapport with the teachers; such constant communication will go a long way towards helping your children be successful in school and in life.


Anonymous said...

Is there a video of that journalist's efforts in the classroom? How could anyone think they could teach without at least some training and preparation?

Jacques Sprenger said...

No, no video, the reporter clearly didn't want to risk looking bad, though she later admitted that the experience as an eye opener.

Sandra McLeod Humphrey said...

I couldn't agree more about the value of a good teacher! I've always thought our educators should be at the top of the pay scale and professional athletes and entertainers nearer the bottom (obviously not a popular view). A good teacher can make all the difference and I know some really wonderful teachers. Love your blog and I'll be back!

Jacques Sprenger said...

Sandra, thank you for your wonderful comment; few people would argue the contrary and I am eagerly awaiting a counter opinion. A wonderful teacher is the best society can offer, just as a terrible teacher equals a terrible priest: they both hurt our most precious resource: kids.