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.