Teachers Professional Day was observed last Friday with most schools organizing events to benefit teachers.
This special day singled out to focus on teachers is important and a time when teachers should be in the spotlight for all the right reasons. Most activities at schools on this day are meant to enhance teachers’ development and give them the opportunity to build teamwork and comradery among themselves.This day should also be seen as one to honour our teachers, who give so much with very limited resources to so many.
Regrettably, our teachers are not given due recognition for the tremendous role they play in the lives of our young ones. For many teachers, I expect that teaching today can be a continuous struggle, especially in our public schools. With the many challenges presented by the varied backgrounds of our young students to the numbers that have to be taught by a single teacher, it can be overwhelming. I, therefore, salute all teachers who get up every morning and joyfully make their way to teach and mentor to the young people in their care as though they are their own flesh and blood. It cannot be easy to smile and be cheerful and to impart knowledge and learning to so many children with so many different temperaments in extremely challenging environments.
I don’t think that teaching can be compared with other professions and the ideal teacher must be one who has a true passion for helping others, especially young people, learn and excel in life. Those teachers who bring that commitment to service are the ones that excel and are remembered for years by the students they taught. On the reverse, teachers who don’t have a commitment or passion to teach and help others can affect children in their learning or their motivation to excel.
To this day, I remember with great respect those teachers who made a difference in my life, giving me the drive and equipping me with the tools to learn and grow. And I also recall, not so fondly, those who did not play their roles as teachers. It is easy to dismiss the child who is playful, disruptive and a challenge and to focus solely on those who adhere to instructions and learn quickly. But the reality is that a classroom comes with all types and personalities and the test of a teacher is how well they can handle the weakest link. I am not a teacher by profession, so I will not even attempt to presume I know how that can be done. But having been surrounded by teachers, I understand the challenge of dealing with what society calls “troublesome” students is not easy. And so that passion for teaching is what will make the difference in how that teacher copes with such a child.
There are many great and good teachers in our system. They all must be accorded recognition. I can imagine the intense joy they feel when years later they meet a former student and he or she has achieved something to be proud of.
Schools cannot be seen simply as time away from home or as an institution where one joins and years later something miraculous happens. Schools are where our future is shaped and moulded. Entire nations and indeed civilizations depend on what happens in our learning institutions. If our learning institutions and those who make up these places of enlightenment are nurtured and given their highest place in the scheme of our existence, then we can be assured that our nation-state is on the right track to success. Ignore these institutions or remove support for them and the result will be catastrophic.
Many across the world today are dying for a chance to be educated, to learn the basics of reading and writing. In Barbados, we have had the opportunity of access to high standards of learning and excellent teachers. We should never take that for granted. We should be proud and grateful for that legacy of our nation’s founders who recognized very early that the education of the people is the key to growth and development.
Teachers who recognize that their role is even greater than just teaching those in their charge are an asset to our nation and the true heroes and heroines of our society. Institutions that have that quality of teachers in their midst have resources that are priceless. These resources must be strengthened and be duly rewarded.
Teachers who recognize that all in their charge have limitless potential regardless of their learning capacity or their physical abilities are gems, they must accorded our highest accolades.
The following poem by Dr Anthony Theodore instructs beautifully how teachers and educators should treat the variety of abilities in their classroom:
O You Educators!
Teach not a flying bird to swim
Ask not a bird to burrow
It will break its wings and beak.
Force not the eagle
to swim like a fish.
Its world is the sky.
Teach not a bird to climb.
A monkey can do it better.
Train not the rabbit to fly.
Ask not the snake to walk straight.
Teach not the dog to sing
And ask not the squirrel to bark.
Let the peacock dance.
Ask not the hen to dance.
Train not the monkey to sing.
Nightingale will sing to you.
O You Educators!
If only you knew
The creative potentials
Of the little humans
Entrusted to you!
I salute all our teachers who sacrifice daily to ensure our country’s children, our future, are, at the least, given the opportunity to learn and are imparted with knowledge that will help them be better human beings and citizens of the world.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace. Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: email@example.com)