What makes an educator?
This is a question that all educators should ask themselves, regardless of which academic subjects that they are teaching. Be it mathematics or engineering, drama or writing, chemistry or architecture, every educator should self-reflect on the essence of the subjects that they are teaching and the effectiveness of their teaching. In recent years, there’s been appraisal and assessment sessions for educators in the form of a “preview lecture” sessions and/or written test prior to an interview. Student appraisals of lecturers and educators are also common assessment tool for educational institutions in terms of improving the organisation’s current batch of educators. A more effective way to gauge teaching effectiveness is for educators to assess themselves using the following question: Do I have a heart for my students?
This is because ultimately, the teaching pedagogy and methodology should consistently be student-centred, encouraging the students to be positive, lifelong and independent learners. This can only be achieved if educators act as facilitators of knowledge rather than the provider of knowledge. Students should be encouraged to learn on their own, moving at their own learning capacity. To make this objective a reality, an educator has to understand each student as an individual, including their abilities and their inspirations in life. If a student aspires to be a writer, teach him the grammatical syntax of language but encourage him to develop his/her own writing style. Should the student love dancing, introduce him/her to the world of dance and more importantly , illustrate to him/her the significance of what is meant by poetry in motion through, ballet, tango, salsa and the like. Should a student have a knack for debate, show him the rhetorics of debating but advise him/her on the benefits of humility and accepting various points of views.
In other words, an excellent educator will motivate students to excel in their academic endeavours but when asked, the students will often respond that it’s their own effort behind their achievements – attributing merely the merits of encouragement to their educators, if at all. Should this happen, the educators should be glad rather than disappointed, for this is the mark of a truly distinguished educator. An educator is more of a photographer than a painter. An educator identifies and captures the existing essence of what a student can achieve academically and in life. Polishing a diamond till it shines is a rather good metaphor for an educator.
To achieve this, a caring heart is a must. Educators should motivate themselves consistently that every student is able to do well – the only difference lying in the students’ different learning capacities and life inspirations to contribute positively to this world. This indicates that each student’s journey is different but the destination of success is similar – as long as the students put in their utmost effort to learn and to do well. Success has less to do with intellectual capacity and more to do with intellectual curiosity. So, educators should take on the responsibility to develop continual intellectual curiosity in each student, such that they will continue to learn throughout their lives. This will also enable the students to adapt to changes in life. Adaptability is a useful life skill to learn since change may well be the only constant.
A new teaching vision should be employed. That is, to see each student as unique individuals who are able to do well both in school and in life.
For many educators, teaching is a lifelong endeavour.
But that is only one side of a coin.
Having a heart for their students is the other side.