Sunday, 7 August 2011

Has teaching lost its shine?

Much has been said about the teaching profession of late. Some say we have lost the respect accorded to us in the past. It used to be a 'noble' profession, we were told. 

I'm sure you've heard of stories of inspiring teachers in the past and their selflessness. Interestingly, one cartoon sketch came vividly to my mind. It was a picture of a pair of glasses that the teacher had left on the table. In his absence, his pupils were silent and completed the tasks assigned. All the teacher had to do was leave his glasses on the teacher's table and he could leave the classroom without worrying about the class turning into a mayhem. Such was the respect and 'fear',  I might add, that the teacher exuded. If we were to try this today, we would be lucky to have our glasses back!

Has teaching really lost its shine? Admittedly not an easy question to answer but we have to admit that of late, the profession has had its fair share of 'beatings'. Here are some 'beatings' about teaching/teachers:
  • the labeling of teachers as 'guru 25 hari' (25th day of each month is pay day!)
  • teachers lack of professionalism- books not marked, not entering classes, preparing low-quality exam papers, doing business in the staffroom etc.
  • teachers are highly paid 
  • teachers involved in immoral activities
  • teachers go back early 
  • teachers enjoy long holidays
  • and so on and so forth
While some of these assumptions may not be true, I think we need to reassess our roles critically and objectively. If we consider teaching a professional occupation, then we should consider some of these questions and answer them honestly:
  • Is teaching a professional job? Being a teacher, I consulted the OED, which gives this definition, verbatim: ‘a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification’. Something we can read and explore..
  • Do we have specialised knowledge in relation to our job?
  • Do we have excellent practical and literary skills in relation to teaching?
  • Do we produce quality works: products, results etc.?
  • Do we display a high standard of professional ethics, behaviour and work activities?
  • Do we have high morale and motivation?
  • Do we respect our peers? We sometimes envy those who do better than us instead of learning from them.
  • Are we competent? For the competencies expected of us teachers, you can go to Standard Guru Malaysia.

I remember a colleague who remarked some years ago:  

"Teaching itself is hard Kak Rahmah! Forget about marking, courses etc..." 

This coming from someone who had taught for fiftteen years then. I wonder how many share the same feeling. I totally agree. Teaching is hard and has become harder by the day. That is probably why some left mid-way. It's just not easy to go through the motion day in and day out. Yes, teaching is physically, emotionally and cognitively demanding but isn't this the profession we have chosen? If there is anyone, it should be us who must respect our own profession first before others. Here are some ways we can 'polish' the teaching profession:

  • improve the competencies we are lacking in- if you're a non-optionist teacher, equip yourself with the necessary competencies needed to teach English
  • don't stop learning- build a community of learning teachers
  • plan a continuous professional development programme that is relevant and focused (not cooking classes, facial demonstrations etc.)
  • keep ourselves professionally busy (one of the flagships from Tn Hj Sufaat Tumin- former Johor State Education Director) - planning and preparation of instruction, managing the classroom  environment, and professional responsibilities
  • be a part of the decision-making process in school -although this may be somewhat problematic given the top-down structure of schools...

At the root of of all this I believe is to have I.N.T.E.G.R.I.T.Y. Not just a buzzword but a prerequisite to bring back the shine in teaching.

 ~the thinking teacher~


  1. I left...needed a break..was getting too demoralised and disillusioned. Felt like I was running into a bulldozer piloted by an idiot on a mission. Too depressed that talented teachers were left to rot in some kind of superficial atmosphere of success. Anxiety bouts of helplessness in seeing what the kids may become was driving me into a nutshell of manic depression. Had to least for awhile..need to gather strength and faith that I actually mean something in this world

  2. hi teachuhman,
    sorry u felt that way. i too at times become disillusioned and lost. but this is what i do best so i take what comes in my stride. it has not been easy i can tell u but i won't give up.

  3. Thanks mdm..thank you very much..all this while, things that always hunting me is all the words written here before your suggestion how can the teacher polish the teaching profession.

    well, the teacher trainee always some sort of lost hope when people from every walk of life blame, critics, comment and etc.

    everytime, we felt that does they know the real thing that happens? does they know how hard this profession...

    prolonged training..yea, that's true..

    thanks again mdm..thanks a lot..

  4. dear aziz,
    have no fear! in every profession there are pros and cons. what u need to do is to equip yourself with all the knowledge and skills u will need in the challenging elt world. perhaps u can make a difference!


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