Originally published on King’s College Blog.
“Don’t get emotionally attached with students.” A friend suggested me. He had been teaching for some years. “Don’t smile,” he warned, “Or they will never take you seriously.”
I was jumping into the teaching profession without prior training. And I was seeking proper guidance.
Another friend of mine chipped in. “We have to maintain the teacher-student hierarchy.” Why? “Because that’s the way it’s been. A guru must always reside above a chela. A teacher’s job is to instruct, and a student’s responsibility is to follow.”
Their suggestion seemed to make sense. After all, a teacher is the ‘owner’ of knowledge and students are the ‘receivers’. A teacher is the supreme one who pours knowledge into the empty heads.
They also told me to maintain a distance from the students. “They will start dancing on your head and you will not be able to control them. Don’t let them near you because they will manipulate you and your decisions.”
As I was listening to them, I thought about my own teachers. Most of them were strict, imposing and unapproachable; they rarely treated us like friends. I could recall only a few faces of those who had smiled at me, hugged me, and asked me about my life. Unfortunately, the faces of those who had canned me, thrashed me, and bullied me also flickered, like a scene from a Hitchcock movie, in front of my eyes.
I come from a school system where beating the hell out of students was glorified. Teachers, principals and even parents – believed that students must be beaten to straighten them out. A lot of my teachers therefore would (happily) crush our fingers with wooden dusters. The pain. The embarrassment. The hopelessness.
I rarely had any emotional bonding with my schoolteachers. And now, my friends were also suggesting me to be like those schoolteachers. They wanted my teaching to be cold, cruel and detached.
But that’s not teaching, is it? Would you – as a student – want a teacher like that?
So, I threw away the ‘teacher’s guide’ my friends prescribed for me. I would rather not be a teacher at all than be the ghosts of my former teachers. If I’m spending 90 minutes inside the class, I don’t want to act cold, cruel and detached. Instead, I want to spend the time making my teaching personal, winning the students’ trust, and motivating them to do what they are supposed to do: enjoy, learn, think, discuss, and question.
Some teachers might want to play safe: follow the rules, implement the lesson plan, and conform to the protocol. Go to the class, teach, and come out. No headaches. But, is that teaching? Is that teaching enough?
Someone has said: all humans are created equally, but some are more courageous. And those courageous one choose to be teachers.
Therefore, I invite all teachers to be courageous and make our teaching personal. Let’s not make our teaching a monologue, but a dialog where students and teachers engage in conversations, reflections and assimilations; where students and teachers end up learning from each other; and where teaching is meaningful. Memorable.