Sunday, October 4, 2009

Importance of community support in teaching

It's easy to become jaded in teaching. You see it everyday. Yet there are those that stay fresh year in year out. I believe I'm discovering their secret.

About two weeks ago, I said a short piece at the local parish about my teaching experiences during mass. Since then I have had about a dozen people come up and say how much they enjoyed the discussion. The talk focused on the successes in my teaching career. There was an aspect of respect in their voices when I discussed how we sought to improve the lives of the kids. It's been energising.

Today, some friends came back from Jakarta and we discussed again some of my teaching experiences this time with a more cynical tone. This time the discussion was more about the practical and self preservation aspect of teaching. The compromises that get made to ensure that teachers make it to the end of term. The times where you made practical decisions rather than the idealistic ones that I'm more known for. In this instance I felt deflated and the teaching profession looked more like a defeated organisation.

I realised afterwards that practicality be damned, I prefer seeking the idealistic path, as taking the practical path means that I accept the compromises that it requires. So, it takes an extra couple of hours out of each day to teach the way I like to teach. To compromise is to denigrate the profession we seek to promote and ultimately to lose face in the public's eye when we fail students (even if they don't appreciate/want/are resistant to the attention and effort that promotes their successes).

..and that's the need for public recognition of contributions by teachers - if nobody values or cares for the effort of our teachers, teachers don't know that the effort we put into students is recognised (or even required), whether the outcomes are worth seeking and the perseverance of improvement worth pursuing.

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