BHAWNA ATMARAM

It’s October 5th, World Teachers’ Day and as usual, despite the outcries nationwide about how teachers do not deserve a special holiday for innumerable reasons, I am sure these thousands of wonderful men and women are still putting some time aside preparing for the next day’s lessons. For those who might be unaware, the clock never stops for teachers. We are always planning, questioning, researching and adapting ourselves to suit the complexity of our vocation.
Myths abound about how teachers are the fortunate ones, basking in the solace of our classrooms. Well, myths will remain myths and teaching is definitely not a walk in the park! The uninitiated might be tempted to rely on preposterous stereotypes that we are merely glorified babysitters or modern-day Mary Poppins, having fun crayoning, painting, singing and clapping hands all day long while leisurely munching an apple and looking forward to interminable holidays. In reality, the so-called holidays are meant for continuous professional development courses, workshops, preparing the syllabus, invigilating and supervising internal and external examinations, followed by days of marking. Daily teaching comes with its load of challenges of dealing with learners with very different personalities from all walks of life and of various abilities, while ensuring that no one gets left behind. Yes, this is a far more realistic depiction of school life from that projected in nursery rhymes or school musicals.

Teachers and Adaptability

One of the greatest strengths of teachers pertains to our incredible resilience. We always find a way to make it work, despite being rarely consulted for our direct input when it concerns educational reforms and other important decisions. Ironical when we are the ones working directly with the learners. The mechanism is simply introduced and we are expected to go with the flow, which we do while battling the fluctuating tides and mounting paperwork. Yes, we take it all in our stride, diverging from our established scheme of duties to go the extra mile.

The COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in lockdowns and school closures is yet another milestone in exposing how teaching is contingent. Like millions of people, we had to juggle our family lives with our professional ones, with the stress of being locked in. However, we were not prepared for the nitty-gritty of online teaching in terms of internet connection or equipment such as smartphones or laptops. Still, we made sure to keep the ball rolling although we were in no man’s land at the beginning, within mounting pressure from all over the place. More specifically, kudos to our senior teachers who had to grapple with the intricacies of technological gadgets and applications, often asking for advice from their children or younger counterparts. We were thrown into a chaotic arena and somehow had to make it out in one piece. To our credit, we did it.

Hand writing on chalkboard

Pedagogy and Psychology

According to Good and Brophy (2008), teachers make about 1000-1500 decisions in the classroom per day. Another study by the National Foundation for Educational Research (2019) has shown that teachers are more likely to suffer from ailments due to stress than any other professionals. Split-second decisions while coping with learner difficulties and their own emotional baggage is no less than draining. Teaching cannot be impersonal. We do not casually walk into the class, give a lecture and walk out. We have to relate to the students on a one-to-one basis. Addressing learner indiscipline is very often overlooked but requires enormous willpower and psychological investment. Providing continuous support and encouragement to learners constitutes the invisible parts of the teaching and learning process.
As professionals, we have to cast our own fears aside as we turn up for work in the midst of a pandemic, with exposure to multiple learners every day, particularly at secondary school level. Just like we forked out for technological tools for remote teaching without any subsidies from the relevant authorities, we arm ourselves with our own stock of face masks and gloves. As frontliners, we were among the first to be vaccinated despite being administered with jabs that are not being universally recognised. Well, we did so anyway despite any misgivings to minimise further disruption to school life. Also, the weight of syllabus completion in such tough times is strongly felt as we work around the clock. The mental burden can be overwhelming and burnout is an unfortunate collateral possibility.

Quo Vadis?

Inevitably, teachers have to keep marching on. We cannot afford to stagnate for the welfare of our learners and will carry on, notwithstanding whatever will come our way. Each day brings the promise of a new beginning. We are aware of the privilege we have by being entrusted with the young minds of the leaders of tomorrow. Our duty lies in the transmission of not only knowledge but values that we hope our students will pass on, down the line. Instruction cannot be quantified from a materialistic stance. We know that we have to reconcile ourselves perpetually to the exigencies of the modern and dynamic world. Going out of our comfort zone by making our schools a haven for learners remains fundamental. Teachers are the constant within an existence of variables. It is a perpetual scenario of ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici’ which will be relevant in the centuries to come. We should proudly say it out loud: ‘Those who dare, teach!’
Wish you all an amazing World Teachers’ Day!

Citation

•Good, T., & Brophy, J. (2008). Looking into classrooms. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
•https://www.stress.org/teachers-suffer-more-stress-than-other-workers-study-finds