Thursday, 18 September 2008

Teacher`s Day and what it means to be a teacher

In Argentina it is customary to set aside days to remember and celebrate certain people or professions. We have the universally recognised Mother's Day and Father's Day and there are days for secretaries, newspaper vendors, architects, journalists, students and the different levels of teachers and lecturers. Apart from giving us an excuse to bring a cake to class or to receive presents, and also the possibility of having a holiday, teachers often email each other to wish their colleagues a happy day - all of which is a great display of solidarity. But in a year in which the profile of teachers has been more present than ever in the media due to acts of aggression against them in Argentine schools and strikes for higher wages and better conditions, do we really stop to reflect on what being a teacher means and implies?

Even if the practical steps to help teachers in their work are not always forthcoming, there is little doubt that in the world, teaching is still regarded as a respected profession and there is a recognition of how important a role teachers play in society. We know that this may not translate readily into the sort of support and remuneration that many teachers would like, but the acknowledgement of the job teachers do, at least exists.

While we may not be able to immediately shape the thinking of others as to our role in today’s society, we can clarify our own perception of our work. How many of us as teachers are fully clear as to our importance? Apart from teaching the subject we do, do we remember that we are also teaching by our sheer presence in the classroom, through our behaviour, the model of a person we display in what we say, think and do in front of our ‘audience’?

Teaching is a very public profession. We have many eyes on us constantly. It is a profession which demands responsibility and commitment. We teachers are a significant part of our students’ lives simply by being present and are very often instrumental in their future development.

Therefore, to do our job effectively, it is not only important to know our subject area, to be able to communicate well and to be able to create the conditions for learning in our students, but also to be human beings who act with thoughtfulness, discernment and from the basis of positive moral values.

Then, we can feel that we are working to be the best teacher that we can and celebrate that fact. Then, we have the criteria to show the rest of society that who we are and what we are doing deserves a high degree of recognition. Then we know that we are living up to the faith and trust placed in us.

When we do our job in this way, which any professional should do, we get the rewards and gratitude that we have no doubt been receiving in the last few days. We also provide the foundation upon which the merit of our work can be evaluated and, if necessary, revalued.

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