As teachers, we want to be proud of ourselves and our work. But what if for one reason or another, we’re not able to derive that sense of pride from our work?
This is the question posed by one of the teachers at the sharing seminars commemorating the 20th anniversary of CUHK’s undergraduate English Language Education programme yesterday. The teacher was referring to the common scenario today where, even though we will strive to be passionate and professional, given teachers’ huge workload today, we are often unable to do the best job we can. Under the circumstances, it is difficult to still feel proud of ourselves. One example he cited is lesson planning. We know we can deliver an exemplary lesson, given our professional knowledge, experience, and creativity, but time for thorough lesson planning is a luxury that few teachers can afford today. Sometimes, we may walk into the classroom only half prepared. As a result, at the end of the lesson, we know deep down that the lesson was not our best performance. We know we could have done better. We’re unable to feel proud.
It was such a thought-provoking question that I continued to mull over it after the event. Why do we teachers need to feel proud of our work? What should we do if most of the time we’re not able to obtain that sense of pride?
These are deep philosophical and psychological questions to which I don’t have quick answers. But while contemplating the questions, I suddenly thought of those teachers who are working with struggling, low-motivation, at-risk, students day in and day out. Do they, and can they, feel proud of their work?
Then, a thought came to mind: If we’re not able to feel proud because of the result (great lesson after great lesson; students passing exams with flying colours), can we be proud of the effort that we have made in our work? Is this how teachers at low-band schools keep up their passion year after year?
To go back to that seminar, actually the presenting teachers had the following experience to share:
ACCEPT YOUR LIMITATIONS
– Accept that we have only 24 hours in a day;
– Accept that we need to rest;
– Accept that we are human beings;
– Accept that we have vulnerable moments.
These are good reminders for teachers who are passionate and professional. We have all heard the advice that as much as we should strive to do our best work, we should also remember to be nice to ourselves. And good teachers particularly need to!