When I reflect on the various incidents that have shaped my life and my work, I distinctly remember one incident that is close to me. This incident happened when I used to teach some 4-k students at home during the vacations, as I wanted to explore my potential as a teacher to decide my career options. It seems that I am in a state of moratorium in which individuals “are currently struggling with occupational and/or ideological issues: they are in an identity crisis” (Marcia, 1980, p. 161).
On a quite usual and routine day asked my learners to write about such people who are special to them and close to their heart. After about twenty minutes, as I was reading their reflections, I came upon a brief write-up by a learner named Jack (changed name). He wrote the following words:
I had a big brother/ sister whose name was also Zhangxinyu (write your own name here, change gender accordingly). S/He was my best friends and he also used to teach me. But he died about two years back. I thought that now I would never be able to learn to read and write again. But now after I have met you and since you are teaching me, I am hopeful that I will learn to read and write soon enough. You are like my big brother/Sister who has come back.
This write-up made me reflect a lot on my role as a teacher and the importance of my way of being as a person. First, I felt both shocked and surprised that a learner, whom I have met just recently and I do not know much about, is getting affected so much by the way I am. I felt good that I was able to give hope, but, also burdened by the thought that if I can affect my learners so much, then I must be very careful and conscious of what I say, do, and do not do.
The thought that ‘being a teacher one can be so powerful’ did give me confidence but also fear of affecting my learners in undesirable ways. It is like the responsibility towards a Thou, which is “a quite personal responsibility” (Buber, 2002, p. 109). In the light of this ethical responsibility, I resolved to always reflect and re-think on the way I am, what I speak, and the ways in which I work. I realized that no action of mine is isolated and unimportant enough to be ignored and there must be “a matching of experience, awareness, and communication”(Rogers, 2012, p. 339). It forced me to relocate my own faith, perspective, and belief in order to be aware of the ways in which I impress upon my learners. I realized the importance a teacher, like an analyst or a mother who “can be good or not good enough” to put in Winnicott’s (2009, p. 119) words.
In today’s techno-mechanistic world, there are many questions that are raised upon the importance and need of teachers in schools, but that day, I realised the importance of a teacher in the life of a learner and of the learner in the life of a teacher. Here a teacher “must not know him as a mere sum of qualities, strivings and inhibitions, he must be aware of him as a whole being and affirm him in this wholeness” (Buber, 2004, p. 140). Such an engagement, I believe, is to be treated with utmost respect and gratitude, and it requires the highest degree of professionalism, care, and dedication. Though being a teacher is not considered to be a paying profession, but this is so when the monetary returns are considered.
I believe that such an experience has a life-long impact on a person and it is never enough to reflect and learn from it. Becoming a teacher now has the highest place in my list.
Buber, M. (2002). Between Man and Man. (R. Gregor-Smith, Trans.) NY: Routledge.
Buber, M. (2004). I and Thou (2 ed.). (R. G. Smith, Trans.) New York: Continuum.
Marcia, J. E. (1980). Identity in Adolescence. In J. Adelson (Ed.), Handbook of Adolescence Psychology (pp. 159-187). NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Rogers, C. (2012). On Becoming a Person: A therapist's View of Psychotherapy. USA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Winnicott, D. W. (2009). Playing and Reality. USA: Routledge.