Teachers don’t only teach children to count; they teach them what counts


“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops,’’- Henry Brooks Adams.Anatole France said: “Nine-tenths of education is encouragement.” Can you describe the teacher who most influenced you? I guess we all have, but the ones that quickly come to mind are not necessarily the teachers that taught their subject matter so well, but those that encouraged and inspired us.

The greatest influencers in my life have actually been my teachers. From the cradle to adulthood, our lives have been dotted with immeasurable influence of teachers who have surmounted great odds to add value to our lives.

Some of these teachers have broken self-defensive (insecure) walls that we have built around ourselves in order to reach out to us. John Quincy Adams, the 16th President of the United States (US) said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” I have never seen a leader that has so much influence in the life of a child as a teacher. I remembered vividly how I needed to fight my battered self-esteem as a ‘stammerer’ while growing up. I withdrew myself from the world, as I saw everybody always wanting to laugh at my speech impediment until a teacher came. My teacher’s positive intervention and belief in me flabbergasted me and spurred me on. Right there on the front row seat, I made up my mind to pursue teaching as a career.

Teaching is not what a teacher does on the white-board; teaching is actually what a teacher does inside the student. Though I teach, but I see myself more as an ‘awakener’ than a teacher. The United Nations (UN) declared October 5 of every year as Teachers’ Day all over the world. It is a unique day to celebrate a set of people that have invested their time, resources and skills into moulding and shaping lives. Teaching is hard work and it is poignant if it is further made tougher when teachers are ‘forced’ to work in environment that are not conducive to learning.

Hain G. Ginott once said: “Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that at times, they accomplish this impossible task.” I am not a teacher by accident, neither am I teaching out of frustration. I didn’t stumble on teaching while trying to look for other jobs; I made this decision because of the transformative power that my own teacher ‘wielded’ over me when I needed it the most.

In the midst of the meagre income and unworkable conditions of the teaching profession, I push myself beyond limits to reach out to my students. Many times, I will have to come down to my students’ level in the most unimaginable of ways. Just as the teacher that buoyed my self-esteem while I was struggling as a teenager with my speech impediment, I wanted to infuse so much hope and confidence into my students.

The main reason why I am able to reach out to my students today is because once upon a time, I came across a teacher who gave me an overdose of courage, love, inspiration and motivation. I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say, “because of you, I didn’t give up.”Ginott wrote: “I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.

“I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanised or de-humanised.”

Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insist that they become the best they can possibly be.Alexander the Great was the king of Macedonia, a man considered to be an inspiration to later conquerors, such as Roman Pompey, Julius Caesar and Napoleon. When Alexander was 13 years old, his father, King Philip II of Macedonia, hired one of the greatest teachers of his time, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, to be Alexander’s personal tutor. Aristotle taught the young prince everything about art and science. Alexander was said to be seemingly invisible in battle and at the age of 33, he was said to have conquered the whole world that there was nothing else to conquer. When the legendary warrior was asked the secret of his success, he dedicated it to the awesomeness of his teacher-Aristotle!

Aristotle would later in one of his quotes, give teachers a unique place in history, when he said: “I am indebted to my parent for living, but to my teacher for living well.”It is quite obvious that the impact and influence of a teacher on a child can never be quantified or estimated as it often echoes into eternity.

Benjamin Disraeli said: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to them their own.” A teacher may not have all the riches to share with the student, but he/she in no doubt reveal to students the direction to navigate to find their own riches and treasures. The story of Michael Faraday and how he rose from being a janitor to a giant in the field of electrochemistry also justifies the fact that teachers are truly miracle workers. Faraday was a janitor in the laboratory of the Royal Institution in Great Britain under Sir Humphrey Davy.

Davy saw in Faraday, an ‘image’ that goes beyond an ordinary janitor. He trained the man who later taught the world how to convert chemical energy into power and light. When Davy was asked what his greatest discovery was and despite having several inventions and patents to his credit, the great teacher said confidently: “My greatest discovery is Michael Faraday!”

Parents must cultivate the habit of investing into their children’s teacher, because it is an investment that will last them through life. Epictetus said: “Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.”On the long run, it cost less to invest in teachers. The greatest gift you can ever give to your children is the gift of someone that will nourish and inspire them to live a life of impact and purpose. A bad teacher is worse than a bad doctor, because teachers affect eternity.

Bob Talbert said: “Good teachers are costly, but bad teachers cost more.” I have realised the truth in my 10 years of teaching that the easiest way to make a teacher produce good results is simply to make them feel good about themselves. Ken Blanchard said: “People who feel good about themselves, produce good results.” We must redesign the educational system to provide a conducive atmosphere for learning. I am encouraging the government at every level to invest in teachers’ welfare and training and also create a conducive environment for learning. The quality of teachers is paramount to any nation that will go far in this 21st century.

Isaac Newton said: “If I have seen further than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.”I dedicate this piece to all the teachers all over the world and also to all the teachers that have ever taught me. Let us celebrate teachers today, call up your long time teachers, appreciate them and encourage them with a special gift. Teachers matter.John F. Kennedy said: “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” Teaching is the noblest profession in the world and it is worth celebrating.

Lee Iacocca, the former president of Ford Motors, said: “In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less.” I am encouraging teachers to see the teaching profession as an honourable calling. Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Nobody can make you inferior without your consent.” The teaching profession is not inferior to any other. Teachers are miracle workers, life builders and nation builders.

Finally, I want to reach out to teachers to upgrade themselves to deliver quality educational services. Teachers should redesign their delivery to appeal to the taste of children and youths.Ignacio Estrada said: “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” Teachers must bring in technology to make learning more fun and robust to the students.

Hari Krishna Arya said: “Teachers will not be replaced by technology, but teachers who do not use technology will be replaced by those who do.” If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.
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