“There is no system in the world or any school in the country that is better than its teachers. Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools.”
Sir Ken Robinson
We’ve had a few changes in our team lately: one of our teaching assistants has moved on to a teaching position at another school, a long term volunteer is preparing to return to the USA for a time, and two new teaching assistants have joined us this term! There is also the ongoing work of planning curriculum, teaching lessons and assessing the students’ learning. In the midst of the regular work of teaching as well as the changes in our teaching team it is natural to think about what teaching is – what kind of work is this work of teaching?
Is teaching a profession? Teaching certainly requires specialised training and knowledge to be done well, and like other professions teachers carry a responsibility for meeting appropriate standards and applying trained judgement in their work. Most teachers also belong to a professional body and hone their craft through ongoing practice and development. But while teaching takes the form of a profession, is that its substance?
So perhaps teaching is a calling. We’ve all met teachers who were born to teach – people with a talent and inner compulsion that will not allow them to do anything else. They are moved by a love of the content and for seeing students learn. Indeed, teaching can be so challenging that perhaps many teachers would not keep going if not for a sense of calling. And yet many teach – and teach well – not because they are inwardly compelled but because they see a need around them.
So is teaching a ministry? Teaching clearly meets a deep need – the teacher serves not only the students in her class but also the society to which they belong. And there is much self-giving in the best teaching: teachers daily expend their mental, emotional and physical energies as they minister to their students.
Whatever your perspective on teaching, perhaps we can agree on this: that teaching in its essence is a deeply human activity. At its best it brings the whole person of the teacher into relationship with the whole person of the student in a way that develops both.