Guest Blog: Our Teachers, Our Future

How important are teachers to our future as a nation? If you think only a little, read this article; if you think they are fundamental to nation building, read this article to confirm your views.

Respect for teachers is the first step. Respect from all stakeholders, but respect must be earned. Where respect is given and deserved, we have transforming, joyous consequences, especially when given by all members of the community around a school.

Firstly respect must be earned. The SADTU professionalisation of teachers’ initiative, amongst others, focuses our admiration on those many teachers who are professional.

Teaching is a calling because teachers ‘‘touch eternity’’, their influence goes on from generation to generation.

Teaching is a calling because teachers ‘‘touch eternity’’, their influence goes on from generation to generation.

What is professional? You will recognise this person.

As a starting point for the professional teacher, “showing up is overrated; necessary but not nearly sufficient “(Seth Godin: Beyond Showing Up). Time on task is not enough, because the professional teacher has moved beyond just showing up for work.  With the joy of truly engaging each young person, professional teachers exude positive attitudes, extend knowledge and make sound judgements.

Because teaching is not a job, it is a calling.

Teaching is a calling because teachers ‘‘touch eternity’’, their influence goes on from generation to generation.

The professional teacher has a vision of developing the spiritual, emotional, intellectual dimensions of a child, so they become fully themselves. They transform potential, which will grow our communities and our nation.

Professional teachers create excitement and exploration, whether it is in open learning, IT situations, or discussion of issues and ideas. Professional teachers stimulate passion and involvement because they believe their work has profound meaning.

Professional teachers are defined by ethical boundaries, commitment, and humility, the ability to collaborate with other teachers and parents to create a safe and fascinating environment in the classroom, at home and in the community.

Professional teachers not only engage the young minds but also engage the parents or caregivers and the community. They rejoice in seeing the community working with the school to develop the child.  “It takes a whole village to raise a child’’ or “One on one, one by one, then together.’’

Professional teachers should be seen as role models in society. Individuals of such moral, positive attitude to life that they are examples. That is why professional teachers deserve respect.

The professional teacher is a lifelong learner and particularly about how the brain works and how to impart knowledge. Teaching and learning go hand in hand. Learning doesn’t take place if there is no teaching.  Professional teachers in their humility also have profound self-knowledge and know what they don’t know, their own strength and weakness.

Finally professional judgement is the key to the professionalisation of teachers.  A teacher, who creates an exciting environment but makes a play for a female teenage learner, is making a wrong professional judgement. A principal who, when mediating differences between colleagues, makes an unprofessional judgement call, can divide a school and destroy it. Professional judgements are founded on a code of ethics, mutual respect, respect especially for each individual learner. For example, dismissing the “social woundedness” of a community, and not trying to understand how this impacts individual learners, is poor professional judgement. Then, not setting up psycho-social structures to assist individuals, is an even worse judgement.

Let us understand the greatness of teachers in building our nation, help them, celebrate them and encourage them. Above all, let us encourage our top learners to become teachers, because they will build the professionalism of teaching and the efficacy of our country.

David Wylde

Past President, International Confederation of Principals (ICP)