It’s been over 34 years now that I have been teaching students at both the undergraduate and the postgraduate levels. Today as I look back at all those years, I feel that how much I have learnt from my students. In fact, they have contributed so much to my growth and development as a teacher. Many of my students have made success stories in their life and so many of them could not make it and that has always been a concern for me at a personal level. The thought that always comes is if I did the right things or did I miss something that was so important for them to have become a success story like others. There is little doubt that we as teachers take great pride in the achievements of our students. But we also need to reflect and think of all those students who did not make it. These thoughts have given me some time to reflect on my role as a teacher and how I can be an instrument of transformation.
It is important to remember that the teacher is the first person that a student will approach when he is lost and is unable to find a direction in his life. Many times this may not be because he is academically weak but more because he is not able to find his place in the social structure of our society. In such situations what is my role as a Teacher?
Most teachers tell that their job is to go and deliver lectures in the class and finish the course so that students are prepared for the exams. I, however, feel that there is another exam for which we don’t prepare our students and that is the exam of their life. Over years I have been able to develop the ability to look at a student and clearly identify if there is something bothering him/her. I have taken the task of asking him to see me and I have found that talking helps them to a great extent. It is my belief that if you don’t care for your students, then you cannot be a good teacher. Caring teachers become role models for their students. This also puts an additional burden on teachers to live up to the image that students carry about them. Everything that we do is being observed by them and therefore we have to ensure that we do what is right all the time. The relationship between a teacher and a student is one of respect and trust and that has to be maintained at all times.
A good teacher will always try and give all they have, both intellectually and personally. Caring for our students has nothing to do with the job or the salary that we get. It is more about creating a culture of confidence and preparing for good citizenship for the future generations. Unfortunately, a lot of teachers in the modern world should not be in this profession to start with. They do not have the feeling of being a teacher. For them, teaching is a profession and it is like any other 9:30 to 5:30 job as they would do somewhere else. However, I think those who desire to be teachers should remember that we have a greater responsibility as we deal with young minds that can be swayed by all sorts of ideas and ideologies. Sometimes we try and teach students what we know but the fact is that we should be teaching students what they should know.
Such teaching converts resistance to interest in acquiring knowledge. This requires that we as teachers understand the difference between information, knowledge and wisdom. Many teachers in today’s educational environment have the task of only providing information to students. We fail to help students in converting information into knowledge and from knowledge to wisdom. For good teaching to happen, this gradual transition from Information to wisdom is essential. All teaching has to connect the subject to the art and craft of life management.
When I begin to think of some of the people that I have met in the field of teaching, I become so sad that such people exist under the mask of a teacher. Probably they are responsible for the loss of faith that students have developed in their teachers. My advice to all those that want to be teachers is to first ask yourself if you have what it takes to be a teacher to start with. Do you carry the values that are necessary to be a teacher and are you ready for the sacrifices that are necessary to be in the field of teaching? To be a teacher par excellence you should have the ability to touch the heart of your students. You should be able to earn the respect of your students and should not demand it from them. This is one of the most important tests of a good teacher. If you have to force your students to respect you, then you probably should not be in the field of teaching. Always love your students the same way you would love your children, care for them as you would care for your own child. The greatest satisfaction will come not from the salary you get paid but by touching the heart and the soul of your students. They will remember you throughout their life for what you have done for them. Let us all work towards creating a bright future for the next generation. What we do today as teachers will determine the future of our society and the place that our children will have for themselves.
Prof Kamlesh Misra