Teachers who are making a difference, quietly

And then, there are those teachers who derive their job satisfaction mainly from classroom teaching and caring about their students. They may not be very keen about taking on administrative duties or curriculum leadership roles. They are good teachers (and in fact, we should be thankful that we have them in schools) if education is what it should really mean.

But today, education takes place at a social setting called school, and as such, teachers often have to grapple with institutional demands, on top of performing their primary duties as teachers. One dilemma that more and more of my former students are facing is that, after teaching for a few years, as they are not new teachers any more, they are entrusted by their schools with additional responsibilities – in admin, in extra-curricular activities, or in curriculum leadership.

Immediately, this big question looms ahead: TO BE, OR NOT TO BE, …

We all know that in a school, taking on a more important role means dealing with more people. And wherever there are people, there is workplace politics. And let us admit: colleagues are far more difficult to manage than students.

A former student who has taught for a few years shared:

“Teaching is quite a daunting task but I still enjoy seeing the little angels’ faces every day. Though there might be politics, the job nature makes me stay. I am a peace maker and I only want to pursue my teaching dream. I hope that won’t bring others trouble as I think the nature of teaching should not be distorted. It is really tragic to see people trying to pull each other’s legs in order to satisfy their needs.”

People enter the teaching profession for different reasons. Some aspire to become a principal from the very first day. Some want to become well-known teachers in their subjects. Some look for the opportunity to counsel students. Some have got fed up with working in the business sector. Some want to earn a living with a stable job. And some simply want to teach interesting and inspiring lessons and care about their students, quietly.

Unfortunately in the social setting called school, teachers aren’t always free to choose their career orientations. After their initial years when they are ‘junior’ and ‘harmless’, they begin to find themselves caught in sometimes ugly political warfare if they aspire to move up the career ladder, or have to make huge career sacrifices in order to uphold their values and principles of life.

This is so regrettable, when many of us think that in the highly competitive and inhuman world of occupations of the 21st century, school is the last sanctuary where we can concentrate on doing some meaningful work.

I commend those former students of mine who have achieved career advancements of various kinds as a result of their hard work and professional competence. In their middle- or upper-management roles, they can bring about school-wide improvements more easily. But I also applaud those former students of mine who have stuck with their personal principles and choices, and in their own noble way, have quietly made a difference in their students’ lives.

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