Are teachers happy about being teachers? Would they rather be something else given half the chance? Do they weep at night cursing why on earth they ended up in this profession?
From the interactions I have had with most of my colleagues, most of the above questions would be answered with a yes.
But let us think about this more critically. Unless Buddhism is right we only have one life to live.
This means that we need not waste it whining about what we should have or might have been. As teachers we need to appreciate what we do and be happy about it.
I strongly believe that being proud of what one does is not only the epitome of happiness but also one of the pillars for professional success.
A teacher who is proud of what he/she does will most probably do it much better than another who is doing the job just for the sake of employment. To take pride in teaching, one need not peg it to the financial compensation because these are usually paltry anyway.
After accepting the fact that teaching does not and may not even in the near future be a well-paying profession, we should take pride in it for the numerous intrinsic non-monetary rewards.
Teachers should be proud of the fact that they do change the world, sometimes more than politicians. We deal with human brains instilling knowledge, skills and even attitudes that remain a part of our students for years and years.
When you stand in front of a class of about forty young learners in a senior one class for instance, you should think of what they already think about you even before you say a word.
They expect you to help them to become what they wish to become and to do it well because you are trained and experienced to handle the task. Approximately eleven years later the same students will have completed their university and joined different professions.
Most of your former students will remember what their teachers taught them and how it has influenced their current state. Great leaders, musicians, scientists, lawyers etc. All attest to the fact that they are what they are partly because of the good teachers they had along their academic journeys.
Some may have been on the verge of falling out of the system because of bad influence from their peers, drug addiction or simply lack of enough commitment but were revitalized by the advice of a teacher and are now successful citizens.
Such people cannot forget the crucial role that their teachers played and remain proud of and thankful to them. Considering this, I fail to see why we teachers can dislike a job that unknowingly makes us immortal just because of its low pay.
We leave indelible marks on people’s lives, who in turn leave their marks on the world. In the past, teachers were highly respected people and adored by everyone. In a village all the people would know the teacher’s home.
To them he was not simply a classroom teacher but an icon of knowledge that could be consulted on many different issues.
Today the case is different as many look at them as people in a low-paying but demanding job.
I have eavesdropped on many nasty conversations ridiculing the teaching profession. Indecent metaphors have even been made about teachers. Nevertheless all these comments and insinuations do not hamper my attitude towards the teaching profession.
A teacher should have the capacity to appreciate his/her job over and above silly perceptions held by idle minds about a noble profession committed to imparting knowledge, skills and positive attitudes to growing young minds.
I hope many other teachers agree with me on this. Our job, though often not financially gratifying, does give us something money cannot buy: the immortality of contributing to the lives of the people we teach. It is a huge responsibility that we should both uphold and be proud of.