Everyone has been affected by a teacher at some point of their life. And given October 5th was World Teachers’ Day – a UNESCO initiative, ‘devoted to appreciating, assessing, and improving the educators of the world,’ I think it’s timely we take our collective hats off to teachers everywhere. (http://www.worldteachersday.org)
Teaching is one of the most vital professions. It forms, shapes, influences and often determines the outcome of our careers, lives and successes as we go out into the world as newly polished adults. Unfortunately, in many parts of the western world, teachers do not receive validation or appreciation for such an essential contribution.
In India, it’s a different matter. Teachers there are revered; they are ‘noble people’. When I travel to India and mention I am a teacher, I’m always surprised and humbled to be held in such high esteem.
Watching a TED talk on YouTube last week, I was deeply moved and inspired by American teacher Rita Pierson, a teacher for over 40 years, who said: ‘I want students to see the value of possibility’, which is why, when grading a student’s 20 question quiz, she marked it as ‘ plus 2 (with a smiley face)’. When the student saw the results of his test and the grade he’d been given, he was puzzled.
‘Miss, is this an ‘F’?’ he asked her.
Rita said yes, it was.
‘Then why’d you put a smiley face?’ he asked.
‘You got two right. You didn’t miss ‘em all,’ she replied.
‘I reckon I can do better next time,’ he said. ‘Minus 18 sucks the life outta ya. A Plus Two says I ain’t all bad.’
Not only did Rita Carter see possibility, she planted its seed within this boy’s future, alongside other seeds of hope, optimism, love and persistence.
That’s what teachers do. They plant seeds of possibility and greatness; they are the cultivators of the child’s garden.
Within the context of Character Strengths, these seeds are our ‘intrinsic’ strengths. They are the strengths we have within us that enable our skills and talents (‘extrinsic’ strengths) to grow and flourish.
So in honour of World Teachers’ Day, I’d like to thank some of my teachers for being my horticulturalists:
First up, there was my grade three teacher, Miss Remsnik, who was as kind as Miss Honey in the movie, Matilda, and who spoke with a softly lilted European accent and munched red capsicums like apples. She was sweet and gentle and not the least bit scary. Miss Remsnik planted a tiny seed in me called ‘kindness’.
Secondly, my high school English teacher, Mrs Coghlan, who’s bobbed grey hair belied her youthful enthusiasm. She both encouraged and rewarded my writing ability with an Honours Certificate, two years running. Mrs Coghlan planted a seed of ‘excellence’ in me.
Thirdly, my night school English teacher, Kelvin Edwards, who taught us grammar with gusto, new words with wonder, and even took us on daring, cultural excursions – including a visit to a maximum security prison to see a theatre performance. Kelvin planted two more seeds: ‘love of learning’ and ‘enthusiasm’.
And finally, my university lecturers: Peter Davis, Gaylene Perry, and Judith Rodriguez, who nurtured and nourished the already-planted seeds by Miss Remsnik, Mrs Coghlan and Mr Edwards, helping me grow and flourish.
Thank you, my teachers.
My hat is off.
(See Rita Pierson’s talk here: http://youtu.be/SFnMTHhKdkw)