Friday, November 18, 2011

(37) Teaching: What a Noble Profession!

        Teachers are most important for the economic development of our region. It is the teacher, who trains, develops, and forms the future fathers, mothers, teachers, business executives, managers, government officials, priests, doctors, nurses, scientists, engineers, technicians, and other workers, all of whom are most important to the future of our Country. Otto Von Bismark, the leader who unified the Germany states in the 19th Century, was once asked: "To what do you attribute the great success of Germany?" He answered: "To the teachers in the schools."

        Imagine how many lives that a teacher has touched and will touch in his/her career.......30 students per class, 5 classes per day, 150 students per year. Over a career of 30 years, that amounts to perhaps 5000 lives you have touched for good or bad. You can do little to change the world, but you can do something.....a little today, a little tomorrow, a little the next day and over a career of 20 or 30 years, the accumulation of many little deeds can add to great as those so called great people in history who have one or two major accomplishments and that's all. But what about all of those little people who have done their little bit every day, doing their best with love to serve God, Country, community, family, and neighbor.

        Develop the Thought Processes. The teacher's job is not only to teach his/her particular subject. It is also to teach the students how to think clearly, reason logically, arrive at their own conclusions through their own observations, do elementary research, discover principles, stimulate their creative powers, resolve problems, read rapidly with comprehension and to effectively communicate their ideas orally and written. When one has developed his/her thought processes, s/he can learn independently without any teacher. That is an important goal of education. Even more important is to instill in the student a love for learning and books that will continue until the grave.

        The problems that students will face in their careers will be much different than the examples in class. Thus they must be able to apply principles learned in class to new, strange, and different situations. Homework and at least some exam questions should challenge students in that way. We don't need memorizers who regurgitate on exams what was dictated in class. America needs thinkers, problem solvers, and innovators who can solve complex problems and create new and better quality products, solutions to problems, find more efficient operations at a lower cost and price. That's what employers want; that's what Appalachia needs to reach its great potential.

        Form a Mentality Conducive to Progress and Economic Development. Even more important is to form students as good citizens and good people for God and Country. That is to form them with basic honesty, individual responsibility, reliability, self discipline, perseverance, interpersonal cooperation, social awareness, and a spirit of sacrifice, hard work, and dedication to God, Country, community, family, and neighbor. I have seen in Peru and in my travels around the world how a mentality of greed, dishonesty, exploitation, laziness has its repercussions in all parts of the economy.....low productivity, high costs, high prices, more crime, social chaos, and more economic crises. Without God having to raise His hand, man punishes himself.

        So many students come from adverse backgrounds and pernicious environments.......dysfunctional and unchurched families with few positive values, broken families, absentee fathers, crime ridden neighborhoods, permissive and negligent parents who place more value on sports than education, influenced by the wrong crowd, few if any positive role models, etc.  Under those conditions dedicated teachers might be their last chance to be functional in society as good citizens and avoid failure and welfare.  Thus many students are at the crossroads between success and failure.  The teacher is often in a position to make a difference in this kid's life.

          Students Remember Years Later. Teachers, your students won't remember you because you are a popular nice guy or were easy or were generous in grading. They will remember if you made a significant difference and enriched their lives.......your dedication, your spirit of sacrifice, your love for them (i.e., caring and concern), to what extent they learned how to become good citizens sensitive to the needs of all, zeal in serving others, how much they learned, how well they were prepared for college and their careers, insights gained, life lessons learned, abilities developed, character formation, thinking, reading, and communication skills learned. All of this applies to every administrator, every teacher in every subject, every coach in every sport. 

         Their present opinion of popular teachers may change when they have a hard time coping with their freshman year in college, finding themselves not ready and unprepared, struggling to avoid flunking out or becoming ineligible for a sport, or losing a scholarship.  Don't let them blame you for a poor grade on the ACT or SAT, thus unable to obtain a good scholarship.  Don't let college professors lament over the foundation of your students, especially in Math and writing: “What were they doing for 12 years?"  I did many times.  Don't let that happen to you or your school. It was fun and gratifying to note a kid with a good foundation and congratulate the school.  The reputation of you and your school depends to a large extent on how your students perform in college and on the job. Be a Hall of Fame teacher and make your institution a gold medal school.

        May we learn from the supreme Master Teacher and follow His example. He was a great story teller, using parables as examples to bring out important concepts that would not be easily forgotten. Master Teacher, teach us how to teach.

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