I am pretty sure that a vast majority of people either scoff or roll their eyes at the word “teacher.” Unfortunately, not all, but most people in the world see teaching as the last professional resort. People teach when no other job options are lined up. That’s what I have heard my whole life. Perhaps if I hadn’t gone to the university I did and met the people I did, my ideals would’ve been the same. My university professors invested more in their students than they did at home. I would’ve been the self-crippled, under-confident individual I was as a teen had I not met these incredibly gifted intellectuals.
That is what I wanted to do.
My goal to become a psychologist has always been in the pipeline. But I knew for a fact that for a certain period in my life I wanted to teach. I didn’t want to teach middle school kids, I wanted to have one-on-one conversations with high school students. Hormonal and confused boys and girls entering their teens. With the world as a big question mark growing and hovering over them like bees over honey. I wanted to answer the burning questions that keep them awake at night etched into their skin with each passing minute.
Over the past 3.5 years I have had the privilege of teaching O’levels English Literature to boys in some of the most prestigious schools in the city. I came across boys who believed their opinions were insignificant; their presence almost worthless. And that every alienated superior who stood before them with a textbook in hand saw them as a cluster of indignant masses possessing opinions that could easily be dismissed. Because when has a 15 year old’s opinion ever had any value, right?
When I came to these schools, I saw several middle school and junior school teacher’s gush over the adorable-ness of their students. Despite that, several teachers readily dismissed their students. If a child was being difficult, his family was always to blame.
And the teachers could contribute nothing – nothing – to his betterment.
If a child showed no interest in the subject he was being taught, the student was merely distracted and lacked discipline. Ergo, not the teacher’s problem. If a child acted out for attention, he needed to be ignored altogether and kicked out of class so he wouldn’t be a nuisance for the rest. As for what he does outside of the 4 walls of a class room? Not. Our. Problem. These were the standard rules handed over to me by my superiors, whom I believed I could learn something from due to their prior experience in the field.
However, I, as a teacher, tried to strike a different cord with my students. I wanted to treat them as individuals, not constellations of “worthy” or “ruthless.” I wanted to understand their personalities as they were, so I could talk to them, not at them.
When I shared my enthusiastic goal with my colleagues-
“I became a teacher to change the world. If I can help even one child, I can recede from this school and this earth peacefully.”
I was very casually laughed at followed by pitiful looks. I was called naive because of the immaturity of my beliefs and eventually I was told – “Awh honey. This passion will die out soon. These kids aren’t worth it. I’ll ask you in 2 years. Or I’ll ask you when you’re married and have kids of your own. No one has the time to delve that deeply into someone else’s life.”
“We need the money and this is the easiest profession to do that.”
It was sad to see that the minds of the future were not actually being polished, but being rendered futile. They were treated like groups with no say or no mind of their own. Having to follow roles and behaviors being handed to them deemed as acceptable. They, in no way were allowed to make even a single mistake or act in a way that vexed their teachers. If they did, their parents had to be called. Why? Because no 15 year old is ever going through something bad enough or tragic enough to act out.
As a teacher myself, I still stand my ground. I still plan on changing the world in my own small way. Yes, I am often easily disgruntled by the way my students behave. But the 22+8 lectures I have with them in a week are the hours I have to ensure they leave the school feeling confident with who they are. I can teach them the value of respect and love, honor and hard work. I can at least encourage them to think on their own. And tell them that their words matter.
I would like to conclude by saying – as teachers, we have been given the chance to change the world. It’s a ripple effect. Let’s not waste that chance.