Who will teach our children and grandchildren?

I’ve been wondering about this question for a long while now, and today I felt like writing about it so as to either hear your thoughts on it or simply vent my feelings. I remember I wanted to be a teacher before I finished high school. Perhaps this was due to the influence of my sister, who was a teacher – some people say it’s not uncommon for people to follow the footsteps of those near them. I was also keen to the idea of teaching because of the way some of the teachers I had made me think and how passionate they were about what they did. However, if this were the case, shouldn’t at least one of my classmates also have felt the same way? I studied in a class with more than 45 students, and there were 12 classes altogether. Yet, of all those people I knew, I was the only one who turned out to be a teacher; I may have heard of another one or two who followed the same path, but I don’t personally know any.

A little while after I started teaching, I started asking my students what they’d like to do when they ‘grew-up’. The students were close to their senior year in high school, and most of them came from top schools. I didn’t simply stop it there; I explicitly asked who would like to be a teacher. The answer always baffled me completely: no one! Not a single student! I was also a teacher in the same school I went to, with that many students coming and going year after year, besides many other language institutes. Perhaps I was way too optimistic about the prospects of the profession then. Anyway, the fact that not one of the students I asked wanted to be a teacher started to worry me. Today I listened to something on the radio that got me thinking, “we sometimes are so absorbed in our personal world of twitter and blogs that we fail to realise there are some people who simply couldn’t care less about that.”

I’d decided to embrace the idea of professional growth when I came back to twitter. The people I “met” were all willing to share and exchange opinions and I couldn’t understand why some people refused to join. Well, perhaps it’s just not for them, and we have to come to terms with it. Another thing that happened today is that I had a talk with my old mathematics teacher. He’s been in the classroom for longer than 30 years and I thought maybe he could show me a silver lining. The things I heard were not very uplifting. The situation is just as bad for any other subject in Brazil. It’s getting harder and harder to find good teachers these days, and even harder to find someone who’s chosen to be a teacher. When I said this, he interrupted me and said that many of the teachers with whom he’d worked didn’t want to be teachers initially. “Hey, that’s great news! They all turned out to be great teachers,” I thought.

However, this new lease of life didn’t last long. We both agreed that, in the past, new teachers had to do their best all the time as the yardstick against which they were measured were excellent teachers. I can’t say whether these older teachers really wanted to be teachers, but it seems they took more pride in their work, and it seems this happened because they were better rewarded for their job, personally, professionally and financially. One could make a living being a teacher without having to work mornings, afternoons and evenings. Apparently, it’s not the same these days and, sadly, we have to settle for the next best thing.

I must say that reading a couple of posts about how teachers are being treated elsewhere in the world hasn’t been an exhilarating experience. If education is the foundation of a thriving society, shouldn’t it be attended to with greater care and zeal? Shouldn’t we want the very best among us to take care of what we treasure most (i.e. our children)? As long as teachers are treated as they have been lately, fewer and fewer people will actually want to be teachers. And those who have found their true calling in education won’t be enough to provide quality education to all children. Even worse, these might even give up when they realise they’ve been fighting a losing battle for 15 or 20 years. And when that happens, who will be teaching our children and grandchildren? Would you like to see someone who’s become a teacher because there was nothing else he or she could do well in life? If that’s the case, I can’t foresee a bright future ahead.

8 thoughts on “Who will teach our children and grandchildren?

  1. Phew!

    Where to begin?

    As a child, I would never have dreamt of being a teacher. It was not until I was in my 30s that I started teaching, and that was in a non-academic area: horse riding. It was not until I was in my early 40s that I discovered that I had an aptitude for teaching. (Never mind that I was peer-teaching information technology to my fellow students at high school!)

    I teach on a freelance basis. The idea of being a permanent full-time teacher would not work for me: I would lose my freshness in the classroom, and it would mean that my students’ results would fall to the average level for the institution. (I bring my everyday IT experiences as a consultant with me into the classroom.)

    I work with learners from age 6 up to retirees.

    There is a shortage of primary school teachers in this part of the world, and I *would* be inclined to be a fill-in teacher providing cover for other teachers, but …

    I am not allowed to teach in any state school unless I have a certain qualification. If I was young, and had the bulk of my career before me, I might be tempted to borrow the requisite amount of money to get myself suitably qualified. As it is, this is just not going to happen: either I get qualified at somebody else’s expense (preferrably the tax-payers’, of which I am one, of course), or I stay away.

    I am aware of a issues with curricula and teaching methods in most of the Western world. I expect that this situation will get worse for decades, and I do not expect there to be any improvements in my lifetime. It will take an educational crisis (today’s issues are nothing more than damp squibs in comparison to strength of that crisis) before education is again put in the place that it deserves: the empowerment of future generations!

    1. Hi Phil,

      I guess there are many people out there who still haven’t found whether they have a talent for teaching or anything else for that matter. This is something Sir Ken Robinson talks a lot about, and unfortunately our current educational system worldwide does not allow teachers to foster individual talent in a way that children will live up to their full potential. If this is the situation now, I can only imagine then – you had to fit in, period.

      The idea of being qualified to teach is something that makes me wonder sometimes. I’ve already worked with people who were college graduates and licensed teachers who didn’t really know what they were doing. Just the same, I’ve worked with many people who were not ‘trained’ to be teachers at college, but the simply excelled at it. I even believe getting a degree is important, but is it really essential when one can truly demonstrate to be capable of doing his or her job well? I mean, how often do we overestimate a piece of paper?

      The situation of the educational system doesn’t look promising, as you said. But I guess I can certainly say I second your opinion. I can only hope this educational crisis comes before we expect.

      Thank you very much for your insightful comment. 🙂


  2. I have always wanted to be a teacher as well. I love my profession and I love giving my knowledge to other people. I am still in contact with many of my former students and I always try to do my best. Unfortunately the education field has become more like a business nowadays, so people just think how to make money doing the least they can do. I am really disapointed with this situation. Let’s hope that this will change…

    1. Tell me about it, Theodora. From what I’ve been seeing, something must be done urgently if we are to prevent our educational system (globally??) from coming to a halt. Education should be seen just like yet another business – it’s our future that’s at stake. I still have some hope…

  3. I have been a teacher for 20 years and do love creating new ways to inspire my students. I feel this profession has gone through many transformations. We are forever giving and cannot lose track of that focus.

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