By Gustavo Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant
Teaching, whether in public or private schools, is much more than just a job; it’s a lifetime vocation of continuously wanting to learn while helping others to learn. Those of us who dedicate our lives to the vocation of teaching include not only the teachers who work directly with students inside a classroom, but also administrators, guidance counselors, and all other school staff (salaried and non-salaried) who are part of and/or connected to a school.
On the other hand, those who attempt to teach others, especially young people, merely because teaching provides a regular salary, do not genuinely teach, do not like it, and are hardly ever successful at it. Moreover, students on the receiving end of such teachers quickly feel the facade and insincerity.
How do we measure the value of someone who teaches and helps others to learn everyday, whether in a classroom or not? Those on the receiving end of the learning can best answer that question. Example: If I am sick I will seek out a medical professional to help me learn how to get better, or how to avoid getting sicker. However, if after many visits and examinations the medical professional does not eventually help me to understand the cause of my ache/pain, or cannot help me to cure, manage or ease it then he/she did absolutely nothing for me. Words of instruction, whether spoken or written, can be valuable when accompanied or followed by actions from speaker and/or listener.
Nonetheless, just as medical professionals do not diagnose or cure instantly, neither do teachers teach instantly. Trying to medically treat a patient is similar to trying to teach someone -- it requires time and participation from both parties! That’s why as a teenager (way back when) I, like most students, complained that my high school English teacher gave far too much homework; because he was considered tough, he was dreaded by most students. Now, I gratefully acknowledge that he was an outstanding teacher – one of the best. Not only did he teach me how to appreciate English Literature (for myself), but he ignited a spark in me to keep appreciating as well as using the power of words. That tiny spark became a fire inside me that keeps burning ever so strongly today! Successful education is not and hardly ever is instantaneous.
What motivates someone, in Belize or in any part of the world, to want to teach? Other than for a small paycheck which our Primary and Secondary school teachers receive each month, why do they choose to teach for a living? Moreover, teachers today know full well that what was once “a healthy respect for teachers” that years ago society fully impressed on students’ and parents’ hearts has gone through an inexplicable metamorphosis to become, “how dare teachers expect students to succeed – against so many odds”. Moreover, in our rapidly advancing New Age of Technology, might computers not eventually replace living/breathing human teachers? Already, millions of students around the world take classes online – not from teachers in classrooms but through a computer from anywhere the students choose to be.
Nonetheless, computers are machines and, as such, are impersonal; machines do not “care” whether students pass or fail the class being taught; living, breathing teachers can and do. I pray that the strong urge that some of us have to want to teach others, especially young people, will always be around!