Teaching: The pooh-poohed profession

I received a rude shock last week when I asked my students if teaching was one of the careers they would opt for. Bluntly, they said ‘NEVER’ as though it was some form of a deathly infection.
A teacher instructing pupils. Many people appreciate the good role teachers play, but are turned away from the profession by aspects like low wages. (Internet)
A teacher instructing pupils. Many people appreciate the good role teachers play, but are turned away from the profession by aspects like low wages. (Internet)

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CHRISTIAN OSAE

I received a rude shock last week when I asked my students if teaching was one of the careers they would opt for. Bluntly, they said ‘NEVER’ as though it was some form of a deathly infection.

After a 10 minutes engaging talk applauding teaching, a brave Senior Six student stood up and said, “We all recognise teaching as an opportunity to change lives and we will remember you for making a difference for us.

However, weigh that intrinsic satisfaction against low wages, little public respect, an ever-growing workload, and the minuses often win out. Now that our rebounding economy offers more professional options, why not opt for another career?”

I could not agree more, teaching is a real challenge. Teachers have to listen to a long list of people belittling their ability, and blaming them for every student whose grades do not reach arbitrary standards. Often the most difficult is how to engage students who seem unreachable, who resist learning activities, or who disrupt them for others. In fact, the situation can be so bad that any small incident can trigger a fight in the class. At the end of the class, your aim is not to ensure that they understood the lesson, but to ensure that nobody is bleeding.

Another is the issue of time – the number of hours outside the classroom that are required to prepare lessons, grade papers, create exams, evaluate student progress, diagnose and address student problems, communicate with administrators and parents, participate in department and school committees and take on guiding extra-curricular activities. It then naturally leads to the conclusion that teaching is a challenging job with many unique frustrations. Why would anyone willingly sign up for this madness?

The rewards of teaching are innumerable. There is nothing as gratifying as knowing that you made a great difference in a person’s life. Undeniably, teachers get incredible joy in seeing the difference they make as students gain new insights, become more engrossed in a subject and learn about themselves. Every day, teachers mold the future through impacting their students’ views and understanding. Teachers foster creativity, develop character, give students lenses with which to view the world and provide students with the skills they need to reach their potential and lead productive lives. Have a Vocation,

For many people, their work is a means to an end. They work for a paycheck in order to live their lives. However, those called to teach have a true vocation. To those with whom you interact most during your day of teaching - the students - you are not an employee but a friend, a mentor and a guide to the world. A teacher makes a difference in the world by enabling each of his or her students to fully maximize their talents, imagination, skills and character.

Besides, many people cringe at the idea of doing a job that involves repetition of a specific task over and over. Teaching is a job that offers a great deal of variety. Each year, teachers get to work with a new group of students with unique personalities, experiences and ideas. Teachers can introduce new topics into the courses, change the way they teach a particular topic or design new classes to teach to keep things new and exciting each year.

In addition to this, you will never learn a topic better than when you start to teach it. Students always ask the most interesting questions, prompting you to dig deeper and learn more about the aspects of science they are most curious about. Teaching science allows you to be a student of science throughout your career as you incorporate new research findings, technologies and science events into your classroom.

Adolescents are both easily amused and very amusing so working with them provides many opportunities for laughter. Sometimes it will be silly jokes you will make up as you teach that will make your students laugh. Sometimes it will be funny statements that your students share with you that make you laugh. A day of teaching when you do not laugh at least a couple times will be quite rare.

While required classes have mandated curricula that teachers are expected to follow, it is the teacher who decide what will happen in the classroom each day. Teachers teach their curriculum in very different ways depending on their knowledge, personality and beliefs. Not many jobs provide an individual with so much room to be creative and autonomous each day.

Despite all of the attacks on the teachers, I am continually amazed at the high quality of the young people who are entering the profession. It is hard to kill idealism, no matter how much our leaders (in both parties) try. I suppose I would just be kidding myself about encouraging young people to enter some other profession, any other profession, besides teaching.

The writer is an English Language Instructor

 

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