To celebrate this year’s ‘Teacher’s Day’ we, your children’s teachers, (several of us) decided to reflect together on what it is we try to do with your children—when you send them to us—to help them have happier and more successful lives.
Although it is actually compulsory that children attend school (thus that you send them to us), the compulsory aspect is something that almost never influences our attitude or our thinking (it almost never enters our minds). At its very best, teaching is a partnership between teachers, parents, the school, and the society where all the stakeholders contribute to creating a positive atmosphere where children grow and mature (where they develop mentally, emotionally, and physically).
However, even if a teacher is not aware of these very important social psychological aspects of education (that is to say that if the teacher has not given much thought to the role that education and teachers play in child growth and development), each teacher will still do everything he or she can to structure a type of learning environment that enables the teacher to relate positively, creatively, and respectfully to your child (using knowledge as the medium of interaction).
Thus, teachers play the role of motivating personal growth and development (using learning as the medium). This means that a good teacher not only impresses the minds of their students (so they learn), but that a good teacher also touches their lives in a way that helps them to grow to be happy and successful.
In this respect teaching is not only an educational profession, but a caring profession.
Teachers have mastered the knowledge of the basic core subjects of early childhood education and use their knowledge (or at its best their wisdom) to motivate the child’s natural curiosity (the natural inclination or desire to know, to discover, to learn, and to grow in a healthy manner). However, in addition, good teachers realize that in their effort to get the pupils to learn and grow, students can be distracted by any number of things (including emotional distractions).
In such cases the teacher is able to gently compel the student to enjoy the emotionally safe and inviting atmosphere that he or she is able to create. In this way, the teacher is able to motivate even those students who might have a tendency to disrupt.
The outcome is that the teacher manages the classroom atmosphere in a way that the other students, and the potentially disruptive student, all learn to use their energies in ways that are more constructive, rewarding, and meaningful.
Indeed, motivation is one of the most challenging yet most important aspects of teaching. The students learn to the extent to which they are motivated. Of course, the students who are not motivated will start to mentally and physically withdraw and this is when the problem of disruption occurs.
Thus, teachers are actually very good motivators and, ultimately, teach children how to be self-motivated. In this sense motivation plays a part in teaching children that the basis of a happy and successful life is learning to be less directed by external force and authority (rewards and punishments), and more self-motivated. Thus, teachers motivate students by helping them to make the best use of vitality, playfulness, and their natural desire to socially interact with classmates (they soon learn that their natural drives are developed and expressed best when tempered by intelligence).
They soon begin to realize that without learning this lesson they will not grow to become mature and independent but will continue to show signs of immaturity and dependence.
The learning experience is not without structure and discipline, thus the teacher cannot allow for disruptive disturbances. However the teacher’s ability to manage his or her classroom can never be harsh or demanding (this will actually distract from the learning experience). A good teacher prefers to keep the students focused by planning the learning experience so that it is creative, engaging, and interesting.
The teacher structures the classroom atmosphere in a way that it is peaceful, safe, inviting, and stimulating. This, actually, not only calls for a high degree of wisdom, but an enormous amount of creativity. In the process children are also socialized (enculturated) in that they learn to prefer engaging others in a positive, appropriate, respectful, intelligent, and socially constructive manner.
In fact, the most famous experts in child growth and development and child psychology have stressed that this is the best way for the child to learn, grow, shape character, and find his or her place in society. For example, world famous Russian psychologist and educational philosopher Lev Vygotsky proposed that because humans are social beings, education is society’s means of teaching children that their wants and desires are best satisfied by learning to have cooperative relationships with peers and respect for elders. Education teaches them that this maximizes the chance of experiencing a satisfying and good life.
For Vygotsky, good teachers engage children in a way that helps them to learn how to develop effective Mental Tools. But mental or intellectual development is not just for the sake of obtaining and storing information. In Vygotsky’s own words (found in Pedagogy of the Adolescent), “The child and the society are learning and growing together. As the society teaches the child how to Holistically develop his or her full potential, the society is maximizing the chances of achieving its full potential. Thus, the teacher plays a primary role in a natural process that parents initiate, the teacher nourishes, and society gives full blossom to.”
In the end the child must be tested to see how well he or she has learned. However, teachers know that the test is also a measure of how well they did their job. In other words, every teacher makes a lesson plan that describes the objective to be accomplished in the learning experience. In this respect students accomplish what the educational experience is intended for them to learn when they demonstrate an ability to use Mental Tools to be successful (or perform well) in their endeavors.
However, the ultimate objective is for the student and the teacher to be able to engage each other in a meaningful, respectful, appropriate, and intelligent way in the classroom and when we interact with each other in the larger society.
International Teachers’ Day is celebrated on October 5.
This Teacher’s Day article reflects the ideas of Leon Miller, who is a teacher at Tallinn University of Technology in the subject: Ethics, Intercultural Relations, and The History of Culture. He has several articles published in international journals on the Philosophy of Education, Human Growth and Development, and Positive Psychology. He also teaches Asian and Far Eastern approaches to Holistic well-being at Studio 108 in the Old Town of Tallinn.