Discussing the significance and joys of teaching

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Why would anyone choose teaching as a profession?

There are different reasons why someone would like to choose teaching as a lifelong career. But before we discuss this, let’s have a look at why teaching may not be an attractive profession for some.

In Singapore, the Ministry of Education has always encouraged working professionals to enter the teaching sector, and this includes professionals who are making mid-career switches. This open approach to teacher recruitment is not indicative of a lack of teachers but more in terms of how educators are valued in the country. The employment market within the country is competitive when it comes to talents recruitment and the teaching profession may not have one of the strongest pull factors. On the contrary, there are many tertiary students who look to professions with greater prospects of a higher monetary remuneration, such as banking, accounting and finance.

This is not a local trend. In fact, it could well be a global one. In Singapore, the number of literature student intake is dropping. In Japan, some universities have closed their social studies and humanities programmes to “serve areas that better meet society’s needs”. All in all, there have been a trend of a drop or loss of emphasis on the social sciences and humanities. Of course, there’s no direct indicator that the loss in interest in the social sciences and the humanities is in any way, linked to people’s aspirations for greater monetary remuneration but the possible of a causal relationship exists.

Generally, local educators in the civil education service are paid well for the teaching positions but there are other commercial and industrial sectors that offer higher pay. Hence, the teaching position – while attractive to those who find a calling in teaching – may not be alluring enough to those who have different life aspirations.

You have not answered the question yet. Why would anyone choose teaching as a profession?

To choose teaching as a profession, there are several qualities that one should possess. The most important quality in teaching, is a passion for it. Now, “passion” is a tricky word. To me, “passion = interest + ability“. This is something that some might not be cognizant about. What I mean is that some people may lack certain factors in the equation. For instance, one may have a passion for teaching but lacks a certain set of skill sets. On the other hand, one may have the capability to excel in teaching but their interest may be lost if some of their expectations within the teaching environment are not met.

“Hence, it’s only when the interest of the person matches their teaching abilities – coupled with the fact that they are able to thrive in an academic environment – that they will truly shine as an educator. And this is often not easy to realise until they find themselves teaching so as to see the truth for themselves. “

Taking the first step to try out as an educator requires stepping out of one’s comfort zone, where courage is called for. Thus, bravery is the second quality of an educator, because it is required not just in entering the teaching profession but also in the fact that it is an essential quality that must be employed in the classroom.

“An educator must be able to take the initiative in evoking insights from students in in-depth discussions and play the lead role in discussion issues from various perspectives.  An educator must be avant-garde in proposing thought-provoking questions, and innovative in lesson design to truly make their lessons shine.”

This is not an easy task and it often takes years to master. Whether one is willing and prepared to take the plunge into this challenge again requires bravery.

The third quality is patience.

As educators, they must be prepared to be patient. They should not hold the expectation that all students will have the same learning pace (which is almost an impossibility, especially in a class of 35-40 students, as can typically be seen in local classroom settings at the primary and secondary level at this point in time). Some students will inadvertently fall behind while some students race ahead during the course of the lessons. Having some students asking educators to teach more within the same lesson duration with some putting forward requests  to slow down the lessons has been a dilemma for most educators in the classrooms. The trick to maintaining a balance is tricky and requires patience on the part of educators.

“There are numerous essential qualities of an educator, and I have only named three which I find to be the most essential. Educators are all different and they vary in personalities and teaching approaches. Nevertheless, the abovementioned qualities are important criteria to assess the suitability of an educator in the teaching profession.”

What makes you decide to join the teaching profession?

I love teaching. Straight and simple.

The path isn’t easy for me either. Teaching doesn’t occur to me as the first choice, unlike some teachers who have decided on teaching since graduating.

This is because my interests are very diverse. I love many things, such as reading, writing, design, photography, the Japanese language, Buddhism, travelling, cultures, psychology, research, editing, social media, analytical thinking, creative writing, communication studies, media literacy. literature, journalism and many more.

It has come to a point where an interviewer once asked me during an interview if I know what I want.

“There might be an expectation among some interviewers that one should be more of a specialist than a generalist but I cannot change my innate preference. I am a generalist, and I am proud to be one. “

So, when I first entered the teaching profession, I have the most enjoyable time of my life, which has lasted till now.

“I realise that I am able to integrate my varied interests into my teachings, employ my writing skills to guide my students and interest them with my thoughts on contemporary happenings. And because every lesson is different with varying class dynamics, I am able to put both my adaptability (did I mention I love variety and changes?) and my understanding of human psychology into work.”

This is something I couldn’t do in some workplaces, due to bureaucratic management, rigid work schedules and work responsibilities, lack of flexible and innovative autonomy, office politics, or a combination of the mentioned.

I really love teaching. Because I find teaching very empowering.

Schools are a golden land of learning, and it still is – in spite of the Internet. In fact, the internet has become my ally in my teaching, what with Information Communication Technology (ICT) entering the education landscape and of course, the “flipped classroom” approach.

To wrap it up, do you have any advice for teachers or professionals aspiring to be teachers?

I will say that teaching is a very fulfilling career.

“It might not be the most fulfilling professions financially, and the work(load) can be heavy and time-consuming. But at the end of the day, when you look back, you will see a lot of smiling and appreciative faces, thanking you for your dedication and hardwork to teaching. And you will see for yourself, over time, the learners you have accepted and developed into full-fledged talents. This is something that money cannot buy. This sense of satisfaction is invaluable and it stays with you beautifully  throughout the times you continue teaching – knowing in your hearts that talents are nurtured and groomed in every teaching moments, and feeling grateful in your heart.

If you feel an increasing sense of elation as you are reading this, then I say, ‘Join me in the teaching profession. It will be worth your while.’ ”

Patrick Tay is an English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist  who is based in Singapore. He has been teaching communication studies and international issues in polytechnics and writes regularly on various issues of interest in education, media, business and international affairs at patricktay.wordpress.com. He can be contacted at teachingwithart@gmail.com .

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