It seems now that I may end up having teaching as the career option sometime soon if not immediately. But I had my first lesson in being a teacher came some 15 years ago. We just learnt that my sister then in her sixth standard was not promoted to seventh. This was her first year in that school. My mother went and requested the Principal to promote her to seventh promising that she would do well in the next year. The Principal patiently explained her the need not to do so. She reasoned how such a decision can actually hurt her in the long run. Looking back several times I have thanked that Principal.
My sister redid her sixth standard, but she was determined to do well now. She progressively improved in her academics, went on to do very well in college , studied networking, passed CISCO certified exams in flying colours and now working in one of the best private sector organizations in the country. I am so proud of her, the way she worked hard and improved by the year. I am sure she will scale greater positions in her career. I always think all this might not have been possible if the Principal had agreed to my mother’s request. It might have been possible as well but I guess the chances would have been very less.
I believe that single firm decision with the student’s long term overall interest in mind played a major role in the transformation of my sister.
According to me, a teacher’s job does not end with just giving technical inputs on the subject, conducting exams and giving out letter grades alone. A teacher has a larger role to play in shaping the mind of a student. And sometimes by his/her action (knowingly or unwittingly) the teacher can affect students’ life in a way that they cannot even imagine. I have given the positive example above. There are examples on the other side as well.
For example, I have seen teachers who were careless about evaluations. I have witnessed teachers who give grades without submissions or give grades without even bothering to go through the submissions or accept late submissions without any reason. Maybe they genuinely disbelieve the grade system etc. but by their action they are sending out a message. They send out a message that is discouraging to people who have put in the hardwork. More importantly, they are in danger of sending out a message to those who were lackadaisical about their work that it is okay to be so. They inadvertantly play a role in reinforcing the carefree/free-rider approach to work. I believe that this would ultimately hurt those kind of students’ interests in the long run. These teachers have not learnt an important lesson of being a teacher: that a teacher’s action can have long range impact on a student’s life and it is important to think one’s role as much more than just a technical knowledge giver and being ‘popular’.