SO YOU WANT TO BE A TEACHER?

If all the teachers in the world were excellent teachers would the world be void of ignorance; would there be no wars; would the standard of living of the world’s population be more equitable; would the crime rate be at an all time low? Does excellence in teaching have anything to do with anything? If you have decided to be a teacher, these are questions you should ask yourself. The next question you should consider is, “What is an excellent teacher?”

Unfortunately, you will eventually find that there is a great difference of opinion about what excellence in teaching is, among teachers, students, parents and, God help them, university professors. Not to discourage prospective teachers, however, it is safe to say that some of the greatest teachers of all time have been fired, or worse, for incompetence! Remember that Jesus Christ was crucified for his teaching and Socrates was forced to drink the Hemlock for misleading youth with his. Consider the risk!

Critics of teachers, who have been fired, should use considerable caution before subjecting those teachers to scorn! Truly, it is unfortunate that the world cannot possibly mold young, aspiring individuals into ‘excellent’ teachers by magic formula; it has been said, in some quarters, that excellent teachers ‘are born and not made’.

Today in America, and probably most of the world, there is great concern for what is wrong with education. In America especially, where the law (The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, providing for public education) predates even our founding and the U.S. Constitution, there has been a great debate among political leaders (extending even to the President of the United States) about resolving the ‘problems’ of American public education. Yet it would appear that there is no consensus of exactly what ‘excellence in education’ is. Though not everyone would agree, the public should be fully aware of the fact that politicians are not ‘politicians to resolve the problems of public education’ but rather politicians are devoted to winning votes to assure their own survival. The subject of public education is a popular subject and reaches to the heart of everyone; hence every politician is making an attempt to become a hero in American education.

First concerns of those who aspire to become professional teachers should not be consideration of how their decision will affect their own lives; rather aspiring teachers should be more concerned about how their decision to become a teacher will affect the lives of the thousands of students who they will touch in their career and be at risk as a result of their teaching.

Perhaps it is presumptuous to say it but there is a possibility that the current and past problems of public education could be resolved if all teachers entered the profession for the ‘right’ reason. Certainly, there are wrong reasons for people becoming school teachers. For example, some prospective teachers see a teacher as a person with considerable authority and they choose to become a teacher because of their desire to feel superior to students because of that authority. For educators who believe that teaching is a noble profession, those teachers who command a feeling of superiority over their students simply because ‘they are the teacher’, are at the heart of the problems in public education today.

No one wants to be required to conform to a superior authority simply because it has been declared an authority that requires respect. When students rebel against that kind of authority, hate to go to school because of it, and do not want to go to school because of it, then the schools are failing and those teachers who represent authority figures are the reason for the school’s failure.

There are huge differences between academicians and teachers. They are not the same thing and unfortunately the universities have not yet discovered that fact. Teaching is an art and a science; knowledge is not injected into students, nor crammed into their cerebral matter! Nor, is knowledge forced onto students by a designated authority! Nor is knowledge transmitted into the brain cells of students by lecture from an accomplished scholar.

Actually, teaching is providing a definite incentive to students to seek knowledge for the ‘pleasure of finding something out’ (as expressed by Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman). Teachers must spark the natural curiosity of students by setting an example and motivating students to acquire a command of a subject that can be used by them to improve their quality of life, whether that subject is mathematics, history, baseball, whistling, music, or art. Students could care less, why the teacher is teaching the subject. Their only concern, and justly so, is purely selfish; why should they be required to learn and master the subject unless it will benefit them. Life and time is too precious, to waste in idle learning!

So, you want to be a teacher? To prepare yourself for this noble profession, consider what your motive is for becoming a teacher? Think about what your real responsibility is as a professional teacher and is that a responsibility that you are willing to accept as a sacred trust? Day labor is exhausting, stressful, back-breaking, and tiring work. Teaching is no less exhausting, stressful, back-breaking, and tiring. For the sake of our youth and the future of civilization, don’t even contemplate teaching unless you are willing to assume full responsibility for your decision.

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