Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Teacher's Gift (The Book)

To my valued visitors to this blog:

I am reintroducing you to my book, 'The Teacher's Gift'. It is the layperson's guide to Teaching in which I explore the job of Teaching, citing examples from the Jamaican classroom, while exploring the major issues in Teaching.

It is on sale on TES.

If you are a teacher, it is a small treasure trove of ideas to help you to navigate the challenges of job security, making an impression on your students, achieving stellar results and realising your potential on the job.

Download a copy for yourself and one for a friend at .

Not a teacher? No worries. This book is also for you. Remember, it is the layperson's guide to understanding teaching!

You may also download a copy for yourself and one for a friend at .

Thanks for stopping by and please share with your colleagues and friends.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Magician, the Cheerleader, the Martyr and 7 others: Which one are you?

‘The man is in the coffin,’ she muttered, staring into space.

‘How do you feel today, Ms. Brown?’ the man asked.

‘The man is in the coffin,’ she replied.

‘What is your name?’ he asked.

‘The man is in the coffin,’ she repeated.

‘Ok. Can you write your name?’ he pressed her.

‘The man is in the coffin,’ she reiterated.

Six words. She was left with only six words: ‘The man is in the coffin.’

When commentators are not satisfied with the quality of the work that teachers do in the classroom and the output of the education system generally, they tend to make the mistake of presenting teachers as a homogeneous mass. 

'Teachers are not doing a good job,' they say. Or, 'teachers need to take the job of teaching more seriously than they do'. Or, 'teachers are the reason why students perform poorly in school'. The list of criticisms thrown at the teacher is long.

What these commentators fail to highlight is the fact that teachers differ in many respects. Some teachers produce either an excellent, good, satisfactory or poor performance in the classroom, as measured by some criteria. 

Some teachers cite the flawed nature of measurements, ignore them and continue to do what they consider to be the best job that they can do for their students. Others just 'go with the flow'.

After teaching for over twenty years and after observing teachers on the job I have come up with a non-scientific typology of sorts of teachers:

The Profiler

The Profiler is the teacher who is usually well-dressed and has an engaging personality. He or she may be seen flitting here and there, chatting with everyone but specifically targeting their interest at the ‘important’ people in the school. 

The Profiler always seems busy but rarely gets around to doing, well, what he or she is being paid to do - teach. However, this person has many friends in low and high places, so infractions are overlooked.

The Mercenary

This is the teacher who is in the job for the money – nothing else.
This teacher is in the job ‘to drink milk, not to count cows’.

This teacher needs a job to pay the bills. This teachers gets the job. This teacher is happy. The end of the month is the happiest time in this teacher’s life. After the end of the month, this teacher goes back to the grind with the thought of the next end of month not too far at the back of his/her mind. The only concern of this teacher is what the job can do for him/her.

The Complainer

This teacher complains about the job, the students, the colleagues, the administration – all the time, it seems. It seems that this teacher is at his/her happiest when he/she finds something to complain about. 

This teacher is a good teacher. He/she gets good results, but has an ambivalent relationship with the job, students, colleagues and administration.

The Cheerleader

This teacher is willing. He/She is involved in all aspects of the life of the school and is happy to be involved. He/She speaks highly of the school and does his/her best to infect others with their unconstrained enthusiasm.

The slacker

This teacher violates all of the rules of the school – well, almost all. This teacher is habitually late to school and is regularly absent from school. 

This teacher is late to class or absent from classes even when he/she is at school. This teacher always has excuses.

The Traitor

This is the teacher who always runs to administration to badmouth his/her colleagues. This teacher has hopes to occupy one of the senior positions in the school one day, the sooner the better. He/She realises that the competition is stiff so this teacher makes it his/her business to malign the integrity of other teachers to administration. He/She is often successful.

The Magician

This is the teacher who knows that the demands of administration are unreasonable since his/her students can’t read or are reading below their grade level. Yet, administration expects him/her to teach them the syllabus and get them to pass examinations. 

And this teacher does! 

He/She teaches to the test by drilling students with past papers. Even students who can barely read pass the requisite tests.

The Stoic

This teacher works well with his/her students and gets the best from them no matter their ability. 

He/She constantly gets almost 100% of his/her students to pass exams but administration never recognises this effort. He/She soldiers on anyway. 
He/She is focused on the job, no matter the distractions.

The Learner

This is the teacher who does not sit on his/her laurels after completing studies to become a teacher. 

This teacher doesn't complain when administration suggests that teachers upgrade their skills. He/She doesn't say that they have already gone to college. 

In fact, this teacher is constantly upgrading his/her skills. This teacher knows that knowledge is always being added to the existing body of knowledge in his/her field and therefore engages in Continuous Professional Development.

The Martyr

It is not uncommon for teachers to deal with stress on the job. Some teachers cope better than others.

In recent times in Jamaica, a number of teachers have collapsed and died in the classroom. One teacher told another that he was not feeling well. His colleague encouraged him to seek medical attention. 

He promised to do that as soon as he finished his classes. He did not finish his classes. He collapsed and died in front of his students.

Then there is the school administrator. She gave all of her working life to her school. She was at work every single day of the week. Yes, she worked Saturdays and Sundays! She may have even checked in on public holidays – working, working, working! 

She collapsed at school one day and was rushed to the hospital. She survived. While she is struggling to regain her health, someone, as equally capable as she was, has been installed in the position she once occupied.

In the meantime, she holds on to only six words, the only words she can utter to prove that she still exists: ‘The man is in the coffin’. Only she knows what she means.

These two teachers and many others sacrificed and are sacrificing themselves for the profession that they love, for the obligation that they feel towards their students, for duty’s sake.

So, what type of teacher are you? Are you the Profiler, the Mercenary, the Complainer, the Cheerleader, the Slacker, the Traitor, the Magician, the Stoic, the Learner or the Martyr? Or, did I miss a type?

Please sound off in the comments section below.

Janette B. Fuller is an Educator with many years of experience in the teaching profession. She invites you to explore her books, Investing in our success: A glimpse into our world and The Teacher's Gift. She also invites you to visit her blog about issues in education here and a sister blog about writing.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Teachers: 3 Powerful Lessons That You Learn From Teaching

Teachers, I know that sometimes people who do not work in the education system make you feel unappreciated after you put so much time and effort into helping your students learn as much as they can from their schooling, while you, in turn, learn much from the experience, developing your skills set. As a teacher with more than 25 years in the classroom, I understand exactly how you feel.
Dr. Paul Semendinger, an educator, understands the need that teachers have to be appreciated and he shares this understanding in an article on Edutopia titled, What makes a teacher special? 

Dr. Semendinger in a previous role as principal of a school asked students and other stakeholders of his school to nominate a teacher for the award of teacher of the week, citing a reason for nominating the teacher. The students' responses clearly show the central place that teachers have in their lives.

Here are some of the reasons the students gave for nominating a teacher: the teacher is 'kind and helpful'; the teacher is 'a good teacher'; the teacher encourages them; the teacher respects them; the teacher is patient with them and the teacher involves them in class activities.
Dr. Semendinger concludes his article by saying that if you want answers to the question that he has posed, you should ask a child. This is good advice, as students interact with you daily and have opinions about the quality of this interaction.
Andrew Simmons, another educator, voices some of the benefits and pitfalls of being a teacher in an article titled, 7 things I wish people understood about being a teacher. In this article on, which I can't do full justice to in this space, Simmons provides "critics" with the following insights from his reflections on his career to date.
He tells us that teaching has positively influenced him by making him "smarter" and "a better person"; that "teachers act like teenagers" and not in a good way; that the summer break is not a real break for teachers because they spend much of their summer preparing for the new school year; that the “cult of the superteacher” needs to be abolished - that is, the teacher being burdened or burdening himself with too much work which does not lead to effectiveness, and he tells us that administrators need to be smart in implementing government policy (Common Core) as not to put pressure on teachers and demotivate them.

Dr. Paul Semendinger and Andrew Simmons share powerful lessons with you in their articles. Here are 3 of these lessons:
  • Students are teachers – they have much to teach you about yourself and your practice. Learn the lessons that they teach!

  • Reflecting makes sense – When you reflect on your job – what it is, what you are doing and how you are doing it – you'll find many nuggets of wisdom to help you to keep on improving your practice, thus being able to meet the learning needs of your students and gain continued satisfaction from the job.

  •  You are appreciated – If you stress about all the negative comments leveled at you as a teacher, teachers generally and the teaching profession as a whole, you are setting yourself up to becoming ill, unhappy and ineffective at your job. Students come to school with a number of needs of which you are oftentimes unaware, but when you make them feel good by treating them well, they treasure your positive actions toward them, and they also treasure you.

Starting today, you need to begin to look at the big picture – the environment, locally nationally and internationally, in which you work – and reflect on your practice with the aim of celebrating the good and resolving to take steps to improve, to the best of your ability and within the constraints under which you work, your efforts to continue to meet the learning needs of your students, in spite of the negative talk about you and your profession that you hear.

I am a veteran educator and have authored two books, Investing in our success: A glimpse into our world and The Teacher's Gift in which I explored the search for success and teaching respectively. 

I love learning and have been auditing courses on the Coursera online Platform. If you are interested in learning about Social Media, I highly recommend the Social Media Marketing Specialization offered by Northwestern University and delivered by Professor Randy Hlavac.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @JanetteBFuller

Friday, 22 July 2016

Teachers: 4 Tips to Help you Maintain your mental health in your teaching job

The teacher is sometimes maligned, a few times for good reasons, but most of the times the teacher is unjustly targeted because those persons who cast aspersions at the teacher and the job of teaching are not fully aware of the complexities of the job and the challenges that the teacher faces in navigating these complexities.

Having been a teacher for more than twenty five years and having taught in a number of countries, I have garnered some insights into the nature of the teacher and the job of teaching. I have shared these insights in a new book, The Teacher's Gift.

One facet of the teacher that I have explored in a number of chapters in this book is her mental health and how she can maintain her mental health, in spite of all the challenges that she has to navigate on the job. Here is one chapter of this book.

Maintaining her mental health 3 – tempering her expectations of her students
One way that the teacher maintains her mental health is by tempering her expectations of her students. The teacher realises that teaching is a stressful job, but only if she allows it to be. She is aware of all the negative effects that stress can have on her life. So, she takes steps to minimise the amount of stress that she allows into her life because she refuses to allow stress to steal her sanity. The teacher therefore is committed to maintaining her mental health. To do this, she accepts the following:

1. That her students are different in many respects
From her experiences of teaching students, from her reading of educational material about the educational needs of students, from her research of educational issues and from the research of eminent educational researchers (Psychologists among other researchers), the teacher understands that her students will achieve different levels of academic success because they have different abilities, different aptitudes, different drives and different temperaments. She does her best to help all of her students achieve excellence, but she does not take it personally when only some of them do. She understands that she needs to temper her expectations of her students since they are different in so many ways, ways which do influence their learning.

2. That she needs to keep frustration at bay.
The teacher learns that she has to keep frustration at bay. She does this by not judging her students’ performance according to another student’s excellent performance or according to her level of performance during her own academic journey. For example, the teacher does not get frustrated when she discovers that her students cannot read, or that they are reading below their grade level and tells them that when she was their age, she already knew how to read and was reading “a”, “b” and “c”.
Instead, when she recognises her students’ weaknesses, she devises interventions or works with others. For example, she may decide to work with the reading teacher to help her students to elevate their reading level. The teacher seizes every opportunity to help her very weak students to transition into “ready” learners, learners who possess the basic tools to take advantage of schooling.
Again, the teacher realises that in spite of all her best efforts, she will not reach all of her students in the way that she wants to reach them. But the teacher realises that being perpetually frustrated about her lot to teach, for example, slow students will cause her much stress, which in turn will negatively impact her mental state.

The teacher does her best to tailor her lessons and the presentation of her lessons in such a way that she reaches every student at their level. Afterwards, she accepts that when she assesses her students' learning, the grades that they get may fall along the spectrum from grades A to F, or in some other category that the school designates. Again, she does not take this personally and does not spend sleepless nights agonising over this outcome.

She knows that although she has a wide and deep body of knowledge from which she draws in teaching her students, there are factors outside of her control: the ability of her students; their willingness to cooperate in the business of learning; the quality of the physical resources to which she has access; the ability of parents to assist their children with learning in the home; the material and emotional resources to which the students have access in the home, among a longer list of other factors which influence the learning of her students.
In spite of being aware of the factors that negatively impact the learning of some of her students, the teacher always does her best to help them master the prescribed curriculum and much more, to manage their emotional stress and, sometimes, when she can afford to, provide her students with material support.

After she has given generously of herself to her students, she goes home, takes care of her business, still takes care of her students’ business (she takes home students’ work), rests, gets up in the morning to do it all over again. And each day, she tries harder than the day before to effect learning in her students. And every day, she acknowledges the limitations of her efforts.

3. That children will be children
The teacher who teaches children maintains her mental health by recognising that children will be children, no matter what she does to constrain them. She accepts that children in a group are noisy. She knows that they easily get excited about what they deem to be exciting, fun or comic in their world. After all, she was a child once so she understands.

Knowing the nature of children, the teacher is not swift to take offence when they respond to her in unexpected ways. For example, she is not quick to get irritated when her students laugh in class. She knows that it does not usually take much to amuse children.

She knows that they may laugh if they find something she says in the course of her teaching the class to be funny. They may laugh and laugh.

She knows that they may laugh if they find something hilarious about the outfit that she is wearing one day, no matter how much she thinks that she has hit the spot with it. She knows that they may nudge each other and laugh.

She knows that they may laugh if in their minds, she reminds them of an animal, a cartoon character, something funny. She knows that they may share their observations among themselves and they may laugh.

She knows that one mischievous student may even decide to give her a nickname. She knows that they give other teachers names so why not her as well. The teacher knows that these nicknames may elicit smiles from her students when she is in their presence, probably at inappropriate times. She accepts this. She was once a child.

What she does, though, is to gently nudge her students back to attention and continues her lessons when they are obviously distracted from paying attention to her lesson by their own antics.
The teacher knows her purpose in the classroom. She understands human nature, having experienced the vagaries of it from she was a child and during her adulthood. So, she does not allow herself to be stressed by the goings-on of her students and she does not take their inattention during parts of her lessons personally. She works around it. Neither does she take herself too seriously. She learns to laugh with her students, albeit ironically at times.

4. That she should expect the unexpected
The teacher who teaches very young children, from the kindergarten level to students in at least grade 7 in junior high or high school, depending on the context in which she teaches, knows that many of her students see her as a parent figure in the classroom. Therefore, if one of her students in a rash of forgetfulness calls her “Mommy” in enquiring about something to which she has drawn his or her attention, the teacher knows that these things happen and reacts accordingly.

The teacher does not get irate, goes to complain to her colleagues about it, telling them that she is not the student's parent so the student should not call her “Mommy” or that she is nobody's parent, insisting that the children should call her, “Miss So and So”. She does not complain about what is wrong with children now-a-days and she does not malign their parents. More importantly, she does not snub the student in front of his/her peers. She becomes “Mommy” for that student, for that moment.

In addition to mistakenly calling her “Mommy”, the teacher knows that the likelihood exists that children will touch. She knows that sometimes some of her students will forget that they should not touch another person without that person's permission, as many children in some societies are being taught. When this happens, she reaches for the tolerance that she has worked hard to develop.

She is prepared for the unexpected. She understands that her students will not behave exactly as she wants them to behave. She accepts the idiosyncrasies of her students and she moves on.

The teacher tempers her expectations of her students. She hopes that they will all be “good” students but if they are not all “good” students, she accepts this. She remembers her job and she does it.

If you are interested in reading more of this book, you may do so here. In the meantime, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

About the Author

I am an Educator with many years of experience in the teaching profession. I am also the author of two books, Investing in our success: A glimpse into our world and The Teacher's Gift. Look out for more titles as I am in the process of writing other books, exploring a myriad of issues in society. In addition, I blog about the art of writing and my books here and about issues in education here.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Education News from Europe (England's Education in the news)

OECD basic skills report makes grim reading by Brian Creese on the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) Blog

Brian Creese
After three years of deliberation, number crunching and further evidence-seeking, the OECD has published its report on the basic skills of adults in England based on the 2012 Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey. It does not make for happy reading, and to save you the misery of trawling through its 110 pages, I thought you might like a brief summary. But you may want a stiff drink before you settle down and read this blog…

An estimated nine million adults of working age have low basic skills.
This is the number of working age adults OECD estimates have poor or very poor literacy and/or numeracy skills and puts England close to the bottom of the OECD rankings.

The particular concern for England is that while in other countries standards are improving, in England they are not. The performance of older age groups is as good if not better than the youngest, while in most countries younger cohorts have higher skills than their elders.

At every qualification level low literacy and numeracy skills are more common among young people in England than in most other OECD countries. And it should be stressed that these young people are not predominantly school dropouts or the unemployed, they are mostly in work.

In England one-third of those aged 16-19 have low basic skills.
Once again this puts England at or near the bottom of all OECD countries. The OECD suggest that it is not just getting more young people up to the grade C at GCSE that matters, as they think that those with GCSE at that grade still perform less well in basic skills than their equivalents in other OECD countries.

Indeed, our national obsession with qualifications may be partly to blame; our young people have gained more qualifications than ever before, but that has not translated into evidence of improved literacy and numeracy.

Around one in ten university graduates has low basic skills.
The survey suggests that 10% of undergraduates do not have level 2 skills in literacy and/or numeracy. They suggest that universities have not recognised the poor level of basic skills that new entrants actually have.

I’d like to say that I find this unbelievable but my experience of coaching applicants for PGCE courses to pass their required Numeracy Skills tests often left me bewildered. How does a graduate not actually know how to divide by three?

The OECD go on to suggest that universities should consider not graduating students with low basic skills, which would be a drastic solution.

Having berated the schools and higher education sectors, the report actually endorses the approach to adult education that has been researched and advocated by the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC) and companion organisations. They recommend concentrating on formative assessment, blended learning (mixing online and traditional study), contextualised approaches and family based programmes.

Despite being so depressing, it is hard to argue with these findings. I think we know from our own contacts and research that they are broadly correct.

Perhaps the one positive note is the evidence that young people in England do better once they enter the workforce, suggesting that work based courses and employer support can be effective at upskilling young employees.

The OECD recommendations are:
  • Priority should be given to early intervention to ensure young people have stronger basic skills.
  • Sustain reform efforts and increase basic skills standards for upper secondary education.
  • Divert unprepared university students and enhance basic skills tuition.
  • Improve transition from school to jobs by offering opportunities to upskill…. through good quality apprenticeships and traineeships.
  • Use evidence to support adult learning.
These are all sensible suggestions, but, the devil is in the detail.

Successive governments have prioritised early intervention to improve basic skills. However, if the OECD survey results are to be believed this appears to have failed to raise standards.

Similarly, the government cannot be faulted for advocating for apprenticeships; here the important phrase is ‘good quality’ and many in the sector are concerned about how they might deliver those.

The final recommendation, using evidence to support adult learning, may hopefully propel adult literacy and numeracy practice and pedagogy back onto the Government’s agenda.

After a long period of being ignored by government, that would certainly be a positive outcome arising from this depressing report.

Any thoughts on the findings of this OECD report as regards the state of basic skills in England and how does your country compare where basic skills are concerned? Please share your thoughts below.
Photo above courtesy of

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Improving School Leadership in Ten Easy Steps

Robert Frost, late American poet aptly said,  "education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence".

Recently, the news media in a society that will remain unnamed reported that a male school principal was in a fight with a female student. Witnesses, however, reported that there were actually no blows thrown by the principal, in spite of his best efforts to box the student into oblivion. It was a super human effort by those who restrained the principal to keep him in check, as for a moment, he let his mask slip - the mask of being a decent, educated man, in charge of his faculties and who weilded much power - and became the man that the environment in which he grew up moulded, a base human being like many of us who does not turn the other cheek in the face of provocation.

It would seem that the student does not respect anyone or anything. She has a reputation for being unruly, foul mouthed, aggressive,  uncooperative, among the other negative behaviours that one  can think of. The principal, it is said, not knowing the reputation of this student, scolded her for some infraction of the rules. Her response aroused the ire of the principal who sought to have her immediately removed from the school compound. What happened at this point is unclear but the principal must have physically tried to escort her from the premises when the student slapped or pushed him away from her. The principal in a rage attempted to retaliate but was forcefully restrained.

One can imagine the excitement among the student body, as many of them broke free from their classrooms to witness the spectacle.

How could this situation have been avoided? I'm going to present ten tips to principals to help them to manage fraught situations in their schools.

  1. Allow the persons tasked with their specific responsibilities to do their jobs. If you give them time to do their jobs and they do not deliver, intervene. Apparently, the person in charge of discipline was trying to reason with the student, having known of her temperament. The principal, however, expected that as soon as he ordered the student removed from the campus, it should have been done and took matters into his own hands when it seemed that his order was being ignored. We know how that turned out.
  2. Get to know your staff and students. They are the ones who have the power to ensure that your tenure at your school is a smooth one. This principal, it is said, thinks that he has all the power and everyone in his sphere must unquestioningly do his bidding. Ask him how that is working out for him.
  3. Give staff members responsibilities and be prepared to guide them in the fulfillment of their responsibilities. Don't ever think that your job is separate from that of the rest of the school and lock yourself away in your office, not welcoming any intrusion, because everybody should know their job and do it. Principals, you must make it your business to develop a sense of the big picture where your school is concerned and this means regularly liaising with your staff.
  4. Include your staff members in decision making and give the impression that their opinions matter. If you do not, you'll be swimming against the tide all the time. And we know how tiring that is.
  5. Respect all of your staff and students. They deserve as much respect as you expect to get from them, for no other reason than the fact that they are human beings with emotions just like you. So, remember to be cordial to them as you interact with them on and off the school's compound. Again, the consequences of continual disrespect are not pretty. Our principal who prompted this post should have much to say on this subject, that is, if he has learnt anything about the subject from his interactions in his school community so far.
  6. Regularly involve yourself in meditation exercises,  yoga is a good start. However, you may choose any meditation activity that you prefer. You need to constantly de-stress, release the build up of angst that you are likely to accumulate during the school day, especially if you are tasked with managing a school labeled as being difficult. If you do not find legitimate ways to release the stress, you will explode, usually at the most inappropriate time. Our principal is a case in point.
  7.  Reflect. You must reflect on your stewardship in progress. That is, during every day and at the end of every day, you must identify what is going well and what is not going well, based on the reactions of the people on whom you bounce your ideas, opinions, plans and strategies. And after identifying the strengths and weaknesses, you must act on them. You will seek to enhance your strengths and minimise your weaknesses by taking appropriate action.
  8.  Don't do the same aggravating thing over and over and expect to get a different result. This is what Einstein, without adding the word aggravating, called insanity. If your leadership does not engender support from your staff after a couple of years, do not continue to lead in the same fashion and expect that the same school community that has been resistant to your endeavours for the past two years will suddenly jump on board. Be prepared to modify your leadership style as you carry out your job, based on the reaction that you get from those whom you lead.
  9. Remember that leading involves action, the example that you set. You can't expect to lead others when you're passive, when you do not chart any course for your followers, when you are not there physically or mentally. Craft a plan with the help of your staff and other stakeholders, devise strategies with their help to realise the plan and actively guide the process. Your staff will begin to see you in a new positive light. Our principal, well...
  10.  Rid yourself of your narcissistic tendencies. Everything is not about you. Yes, you have worked hard to achieve your place in the world. Congratulations! However, lend a hand to others right under your nose who are also trying to find their place in the world, instead of viewing them as threats to your achievements.
There are other tips that I could share with you - school principals, school administrators or school managers - whatever label you accept - but I'll leave it at this. Members of society expect principled leadership from you, in spite of all the challenges in the environment in which you work. You have accepted the job. You are the leader.  It's your duty to find ways to manage any difficulty that may arise during your stewardship. Be innovative,  be creative, lead!

And carefully think of Robert Frost's words! To what extent do you agree with his observation?

Picture courtesy of

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Teacher's Gift - Chapter 1

After writing my first book, "Investing in our success: A glimpse into our world", I quickly started the second, "The Teacher's Gift". However, between much procrastination and life's curve balls, I have just completed this book. It is a book for teachers, aspiring teachers and for everyone who is interested in understanding the nature of the teacher and the job of teaching. This book has twenty chapters and I am sharing one of these chapters with you.

As you will notice, I started at the beginning. Why do teachers do what they do? Here is chapter 1. Read then go here to get your copy.

The Calling

The teacher’s “calling” is that driving need that she has to embark on a course of action as her life's work and that deep-seated belief or acceptance that she has about the “rightness” of that course of action on which she has embarked. And, having embarked on this course of action, the teacher feels a sense of satisfaction in tackling the demands of this course of action, in spite of the challenges.

The course of action that she feels compelled to take, to teach, is her calling. It is from this calling that she hopes to achieve her livelihood.

The teacher believes that teaching is her calling, whether by choice or by circumstance. She knows that in spite of her motivation for entering the teaching profession, she has a responsibility to her students to, among other things, help in guiding them in becoming the kinds of citizens that society, through the policies of government or through its norms and mores, expects them to be. The teacher realises that this is no frivolous task. She embraces this task!

I elicited from a number of teachers in Jamaica, both males and females, their reasons for entering the teaching profession. The following are the reasons that they shared with me:

1. They were born to teach.

Some teachers said that they chose to teach because they were born to teach. They said that from the time that they began to conceive of themselves as persons, they always wanted to teach.

They vividly remembered their early forays into teaching, “playing school”, and being the teacher. Their remembered joy of their youthful teaching experiences are as fresh today as their present joy in teaching.

They said that the calling to teach was something that they could not explain in any other way, except that teaching was something that they were born to do. It was just something that they always knew that they would do. Teaching is something that they do and enjoy doing.

Some retired teachers said that teaching was something that they did and would do again if they had the chance to live their lives all over again. They said that they relished the evidence of their labours in the classroom; their students who, for the most part, had found gainful employment, and who had not forgotten their efforts many, many, years afterwards when they meet in disparate places.

2. Teaching is a family tradition.

Some teachers said that they got their calling to teach from either a parent or parents, or from relatives who were teachers. They observed their parents’ or relatives’ commitment to the job of teaching and were impressed by this commitment. So, when it was time to choose a career, they had no hesitation in choosing teaching.

They said that teaching was a natural progression for them as they were following in the footsteps of many relatives who had been teachers or who were teachers. Teaching for them is therefore a family tradition.

These teachers said that they have had no regrets in choosing teaching as their career path. They enjoy their jobs and, in spite of the challenges inherent in the job, they would not trade it for anything else.

3. Wanting to contribute to the development of society

Some teachers of children said that they got their calling to teach from their desire to make a difference in their society. They believed that teaching had the potential to help them to fulfil this desire. They said that children were the future who would eventually influence events in society; therefore these children needed guidance.

They believe that they are fully equipped to give children this guidance, to help them grow up to be responsible citizens. The calling to the teaching profession, for these teachers, seems to be an innate altruism.

4. The need for a job

Some teachers said that they were called to teaching from expedience. They graduated from college or university. They needed a job. In their job search, they came across job advertisements for teachers. They realised that they were qualified to teach. They applied for and got the job.

They have been teaching ever since and although they have experienced a number of frustrations brought about by working conditions, colleagues, administration and students, on the whole the experience of being a teacher has been rewarding. They have no immediate plans to move into something new.

5. Influence of teachers

Some teachers said that they were called to teaching by a teacher who have had significant influence in their lives. Some teachers said that a teacher recognised their aptitude in a particular subject area and recommended teaching as a viable career path for them. They listened and acted on this bit of advice from their teacher.

Other teachers said that they were so impressed by the competence in teaching shown by a special teacher that they were moved to emulate that teacher. They said that they have been enjoying the experience of being a teacher and would do nothing else.

6. The need for stability

Some teachers said that they entered the teaching profession because of their need for stability and since the job of a teacher is relatively stable, they chose teaching as their career path. They have a job until they retire and upon retirement a guaranteed pension awaits them. This was the response of some teachers in full time employment and who were teaching below the tertiary level.

These teachers said that all they ever wanted from life was a job to meet their day to day needs and one that provided a secure retirement. They chose teaching as the means through which they would achieve this goal.

My Conclusion

Of course, the teacher's calling to teach could have come from any of a number of other sources. For example, lacking the capability to do anything else but teach may be one reason why some teachers choose to teach, but the teachers with whom I spoke did not admit to this motivation. Instead, they gave the reasons outlined above for entering the teaching profession.

From the responses of the teachers with whom I spoke, I drew the following conclusion. The teacher’s calling to teach comes from a number of sources: an internal drive, from the example and/or prodding of significant others, from altruism, from expedience and from the need for stability.

Everyone of us who is in an occupation/profession has responded to a call. What is your motivation for doing the job in which you are engaged? Share your views below.