Fellow teachers, you will hardly reach their hearts and heads if you do not love them

2015-11-04 10:47

In her therapeutic book Mom & Me & Mom, the legendary Maya Angelou pens the following about love: “Love heals. Heals and liberates. I use the word love, not meaning sentimentality, but a condition so strong that it may be that which holds the stars in their heavenly positions and that which causes the blood to flow orderly in our veins.” I was forced to pause and reflect on the types of teachers we have in many of our schools in South Africa when I encountered these comforting words by Mme Maya Angelou. I was propelled to think of a teacher who always buys her learner something to eat during break so that she/ he can be like other kids whose parents were able to give them pocket money.

I reflected on that teacher who will always sacrifice his last penny just so that his talented, but financially short sleeved learner, can afford to travel to a morabaraba championship in another province. Equally, I was propelled to reflect on some of our teachers whose diet seems to stem from bitter words that even copra cannot digest. These are the teachers who will never stop at nothing to tell a child they amount to nothing—teachers who break instead of building a child’s self-confidence.  That teacher whose period learners resent because the only thing she seems to master is words of hate instead of love. Has your teacher ever said these words to you: “I do not care whether you pass or not because my children are in a private school”? Yes, there are learners whose behavior is so negative that the only option that a teacher has is to spew this venom but is it worth it?

Unfortunately our system is still full of some of these teachers. When a child fails, they never bother to find out why she/he continually performs at a level below modest; to them, what only counts is the pay cheque at the end of the month. While our schooling system is bedeviled by endemic challenges that tempt one to conclude they may end only in the return of Jeso, they are certainly no excuse for some of the teachers to reduce the learners’ ambitions to an insect’s size.

My short teaching experience has taught me one thing: your learners will respect and trust you when they can see through your actions and words that you deeply care about them. When they can sense that you truly value their presence in your life. Such learners tend to return favour by performing well in their studies and other talents outside of the core curricular. We teachers have a tremendous power to alter how our learners see themselves and everyone around them—let us use this power with great care. Remember: the same way they will recount how bad you were to them, they are equally going to remember how generous you were with your love.

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