The Romance of Teaching: Boosting the Self-Esteem of Yemeni Teachers [Archives:1999/41/Focus]

October 11 1999

Dr. Ramakanta Sahu
Associate Professor
College of Education
The success of any profession squarely depends on the extent to which its members are able to put in their best into it and derive satisfaction for doing their job creatively,imaginatively, and insightfully . In other words, it is the quality of people,their vision and outlook, their sense of involvement, commitment and dedication coupled with the degree of their professionalism that decides the inner strength and the vitality of the profession. Teaching as a profession is no exception. Teachers are the builders of the architects of tomorrow and, as such, are, without any fear of exaggeration, builders of the nation. The progress of any nation is intricately interconnected with the quality of teachers – their intellectual caliber, emotional maturity, humanly traits, and professional refinement.
Self-esteem, self respect or self image is one of the most important cornerstones for the maximization of the potential of a teacher, enabling him to justify himself as a member of a noble profession. The qualities of self awareness, of cultural awareness and of professional awareness endow him with courage, confidence and commitment enabling him to march ahead with self-sustaining vigor. Lack of these sterling virtues tend to cripple him with a sense of hollowness, and purposelessness, jeopardizing the prospect of achieving an elevating sense of fulfillment that is the very essence of teaching as a profession.
On the basis of my long experience as a teacher – educator in India and as one who is currently responsible for preparing a section of Yemeni young men and women to join the rank and file of the teaching profession, I have a deep realization that the two foremost qualities that the Yemeni young men and women maturing as potentially vibrant professionals need as an integral part and parcel of their professional repertoire are self-esteem and a positive attitude towards their profession.A perceived lack of these enduring qualities,on the other hand, has the potential to ,drive the teaching subculture into the inescapable edge of a crisis which may have a far reaching implication for generations of students who are eagerly awaiting to be led along the path of enlightenment by the teachers,the torch bears of knowledge and wisdom.
It is no denying the fact that a major segment of the teaching community currently finds itself in cross-roads. Most of the members are bewildered by their inability to cope with an awe inspiring bulk of incoming information, generating in them a corroding sense of insecurity as well as a feeling of loss of identity arising out of lack of proper social accountability . At this crucial juncture, there is an abiding need to stop for a moment, look back in retrospect, deeply introspect and then get ready to face upto the challenges, actual and potential, coming our way in the new age of informatics, which in the words of a poet is ‘the best of times and the worst of times’.Qualities of self-analysis, self-monitoring and self-correction are of crucial importance at the present moment to gear up for a rewarding future. Alexander Pope’s dictum
“Know then thyself, presume not god to scan “
seems to be most apt in the present context.No educational system has ever achieved its goal without a group of professionals fully committed to their job.
If our goal is to produce a cadre of self-actualized teachers, or reflective practitioners , skilled at exercising their craft even under difficult circumstances, and capable of leading the country to the new millennium, we have to ensure the following attributes in them:
a) Self-motivation: We have to have people in the profession who are teachers by choice, and not by chance and who do not need others to motivate them to go about their job faithfully, honestly and sincerely.
b) Good educational background: They should be well-educated, not only in terms of university degrees, but with proper cultivation of mind, good personal and social attributes which would make them sound role models for the students.
c) Good coordination: The teacher in the modern educational ethos is a manager of people, a resource manager. He should be adept in interpersonal skills. Personality of the teacher is just as important as the teaching skills.
d) Familiarity with new technology: New technology may have made the life of the teacher simpler, but it has not done the job of teaching easier in this hi-tech age. Teachers should at least be computer literate to make teaching stimulating and varied.
Gone are the days when possession of a university degree was the only passport to enter the fascinating domain of teaching.In the modern age,however,a mere acquisition of required qualification does not necessarily make a successful teacher. Teachers by choice, as mentioned above, are people who take the profession as a mission, as their religion, not merely a means of earning livelihood. They achieve a sense of fullness, of fulfillment, of profundity, through teaching.
Seen from this perspective, teachers can be classified into three categories:
i) Imitative teachers – those who lack originality and blindly ape other people’s practices
ii) Interpretative teachers – those who critically evaluate several practices in vogue, and apply their discretion and analytical power to pick out the ones which suit best to their situation
iii) Creative teachers – those who are original in their approach. As path finders they innovate and create new ideas for others to emulate.
It is the last type of teachers who are indeed, the pride of our profession. They invariably have a high degree of self-esteem as well as respect for the profession Both self-esteem and love of the profession are interrelated. In fact,one of the best ways to boost one’s self-esteem is to love the profession as much as one loves oneself.
The second way to boost the self-esteem of teachers is to try and refine their professional equipment. Apart from keeping themselves abreast of their respective academic disciplines, there seems to be an urgent need for strengthening their professional network through forming teachers’ association, not so much fired by the sprit of trade unionism, as being inspired by the abiding need of breaking personal and professional barriers ,thereby building bridges of understanding. Such organizations at local grassroot levels can affiliate themselves to apex organizations at the national level, like the British Association of Applied Linguists (BAAL) in Britain or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in the U.S.A. The basic objective of these professional bodies would primarily be mutual caring and sharing,professional enrichment as well as dissemination of the latest information in various pedagogic fields among the members through organisation of periodic symposia, workshops, seminars, etc. which may be scheduled during the summer holidays, or other such breaks.
We can also think of publishing a professional journal in Yemen embodying seminal ideas, path breaking teaching practices tried out by innovative teachers, theorisations on various classroom based problems and their solutions and so forth. This can provide a much needed avenue of self expression for the teaching community, liberating them from the corrosive influence of the ‘burnt-out effect’ and at the same time achieving professional enrichment and professional renewal.
It is usually seen that once an individual enters the teaching profession, he stops growing professionally. In fact, when someone says he has ten years of teaching experience, it amounts to only one year’s experience multiplied ten times. He has been practically moving in a circle without achieving any progression, resulting in a despicable state of stagnancy Well directed efforts to resuscitate, rejuvenate, recreate, renew teachers in Yemen through periodically organized, peripatetic orientation programs would go a long way to boost the self image of Yemeni teachers.
The third major direction of the efforts to boost the drooping self esteem of teachers would be to give them an instrument for analyzing and monitoring their own classroom performances and practices. Every teacher may ask himself three vital questions, namely,
1. Do I look forward to my class with interest and plan for it well in time?
2. Do I enjoy teaching? Do I allow flexibility in my class or rigidly cling on to my teaching plan?
3. Do I analyze my performance in the class after it is over and think of ways to improve in future?
If the answers to most of those questions is positive, they unmistakably point to a conscientious teacher. It would be quite productive if we continually reflected on our classroom performance and judiciously pondered about what concrete steps we should be taking to make the lesson more interesting and enjoyable for the students as well as how to make it still better. So continual self monitoring monitoring of our performance is crucial to be reflective practitioners.
One often hears a rather cynical and condescending comment about teachers being the ‘leisured class’. It is true that the members of the teaching community enjoy the unenviable privilege of vacation,unavailable to other professions. But this free time should not be frittered in trivial things. If we learn how to make a creative use of the free time by making a well-planed investment for professional self improvement, think of strategies for providing new and imaginative learning experiences for the children, and engage ourselves in an array of activities and programs targeted at improving the quality of community life such as creating environmental awareness, participating in immunization programs, organizing literacy drive, and so forth, then the much talked about social accountability of the profession can be maintained and the image of the teaching fraternity can be improved.
There is no denying the fact that the existing living and working conditions of teachers everywhere are far from satisfactory which is why it does not attract the best brains to teaching. The society must,on a priority basis, create conditions conducive to the maximization of the teacher’s potential so that they are in a position to give their best to the society.For instance, there should be adequate provisions for promotional avenues and other similar benefits to the promising teachers. In fact, promotion should be based on performance of the incumbent and not linked to his seniority alone. In the West it is customary for dynamic and academically prolific professionals to supersede their relatively lazy seniors. We, here in Yemen, could formulate a set of criteria for continual evaluation and monitoring of the faculty and suitably reward the hard working, imaginative, innovative minds for their achievements.
On the teachers’ part, they should not always have a grouse. ‘A bad workman blames the tools’. Let’s adapt ourselves to the new ethos, the new value system and, as ambassadors of change, groom young minds as fitting citizens of future. We have to deserve before desiring. Let’s have faith in ourselves. Let’s feel the pulsating rhythm of teaching. Only then can we contribute to the creation of a new world order.