Teaching itself is a courageous profession in many respects. The people belonging to other professions can do corruption, earn colossal amount of money by fair means or foul, can do indecent activities which will not make the people around so much upset. When a teacher gets involved in this sort of activity, every member of the society frowns upon him/her. Because of these factors, choosing teaching professional calls for courage. Finally, still many people do not want to give it a well recognition as a job. So, people need courage to embrace this profession.
Teaching requires courage as each lesson presents a terrifying foray into an unpredictable abyss, and courage, accompanies the new teacher every time he or she crosses the threshold into a classroom. However, if you have been teaching for a while, your daily landscape might be a lot more predictable. Symptoms of a dearth of courage include boredom, repetition, irritability towards students or colleagues, a lack of creativity, resistance to the new, defensiveness and apathy.
As a teacher of English, your working environment is rich with cultures, beliefs, experiences, personalities, and insights if only you will open yourself to embrace it. We are not just teachers when we enter the classroom, we teach every moment of our lives. And to face such every new situation needs courage.
It takes courage and determination to take accountability for our thoughts and beliefs and how these affect our life outwardly. If our inwardness is a place unknown and explored, we run the risk of projecting outwards what is going on inside and since most of us have deeply held fears about how we are, this is what we will be projecting. Behind the venture of teaching English, we are really teaching and reinforcing what we believe about others, the world and ourselves.
A teacher is not supposed to know everything he/she teaches but students expect everything from him/her. Some teachers think it a shame not to know everything and feel embarrassed when they fail to answer everything the students ask them. Then they try to beat about the bush to face this embarrassing situation. Here also they need to have courage to say that ‘I don’t know everything’. It is all right to even let my students know that I do not know everything. It takes courage to learn new things and open up to possible failures. My students will learn that I am making an effort to learn and they will also learn from me how I handle the results.
Students can be our greatest teachers. But it takes courage to know that we don’t know everything and that is one of the most important parts of teaching. The courage to keep learning with an open mind and heart is what teaching is about. As teachers, we do not have to have all the answers; we just have to be open to learning in our own classrooms.
Mary Bieglow, a teacher and blogger for the National Science Teachers Association, wrote in her post “What Teachers Can Learn From Students” that by being open to not knowing all the right answers or questions, she got more out of her students.” The heart of teaching is the teaching of the heart. In order to teach, we need courage to overcome our fear of admitting that we don’t know it all. Teachers possess the power to create conditions that can help students learn a great deal ¬or keep them from learning much at all. Teaching is the intentional act of creating those conditions and good teaching requires that we understand the inner resources of both the intent and the act. The call to teach is a challenge to be met with humility and courage: humility that springs from the realization that we are given the opportunity to touch and shape lives; courage that is born from confidence in God who calls us. We can be encouraged by the knowledge that God has provided all that we need in order to accomplish His purpose for us; if His purpose includes teaching, His provisions include the inner resources to teach well.
There are principles to guide our efforts to create conditions to help students learn a great deal. These principles spring from our own work as teachers. All teachers are actually courageous because being in this profession is a matter of courage. Often we work under less than ideal circumstances, and it seems there is never enough time, energy, or resources to do all that we would love to do. And yet we return, day after day, with determination and hearts full of hope… because we have the courage to teach. It takes courage to try something new, and to try again when it does not work out quite the way we plan. It takes courage to work in uncomfortable situations. It takes courage to work with difficult people. It takes courage to work in dangerous settings whether it is a large classroom, dealing with institutional authorities, various sorts of guardians and students, financial limitations, or schools and neighborhoods where kids cannot feel safe. Facing a class of thirty to ninety or even more students is a challenging situation indeed. So, teachers are courageous people. Teachers can do any sort of job which needs courage. If you are a teacher, think yourself that you are one of the most courageous men in the society, it is because of your profession and because of you.
MASUM BILLAH: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program, Brac and Vice-President, Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA), Dhaka, Bangladesh.