Dr Rashid Askari
'Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.' The French-born American historian Jacques Barzun's assessment of the present status of teaching profession is a stark reality in our country. This is fully vindicated by the sayings of Humayun Azad considering the 'handsome idiots of our film industry' or 'the daroga' as superior to the teachers. However, I still regard teaching as one of the noblest professions in the world. I, however, do not conform to the stereotype view of a teacher as a man with dark suit and thick glasses who delivers lectures like a record player with robotic posture, and whose students attend it with frequent yawns and stretches. This is not just the job for real teaching. A model teacher is he who takes up teaching not simply as his job, but as his vocation, his mission and vision, his aim and assignment, his quest and trust, and tries to achieve it in his own sweet way.
A good teacher is the heart of the class. He can create an atmosphere in the classroom refreshingly conducive to the concentrated study. There is never a dull moment as long as he is in the class. He has the charisma to turn a boring subject into an interesting one by virtue of his pleasant personality and vibrant performance. He is a good psychologist, and is possessed of the power to read the mind of his students. He knows what is what. He teaches his students in a no-nonsense way, and never tries to show off the parade of knowledge. He acts as a tool to connect the students with the subject he is teaching in a very easy and simple way. As the author, Louis A. Berman puts it: "A good teacher is a master of simplification?." This is what we can call 'active teaching'.
To my way of thinking, active teaching is not a one-way traffic. It is rather a communicative approach. The teachers should make the students actively participate in the discourse by way of role-play, questioning, counter questioning, quiz etc. The reciprocal discussion on the subject matter would help the students get to the heart of it. This mutual classroom activity would work as a stimulant to learners' interest. We should keep in mind the Chinese proverb: "Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand."
A teacher would educate his students to acquire the knowledge and skills needed for successful careers, leadership roles and ability for lifelong learning. Apart from this immediate objective of teaching, there is a greater end in view. A good teacher should guide the students to strive to discover their latent talents and make the most of them. They should be given to believe that true education should not aim at procuring certificates only; it also teaches them the ways to face newer challenges of life confidently and successfully. Not only to cross the bar to semesters but also to achieve something permanent in life should be the final objective of real education. This would lead them to the way to peace and prosperity. The early nineteen century American education reformer Horace Mann rightly remarks: "A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron."
The present age is an age of high commercialism. People are engaged in cutthroat competition and restless pursuit of personal aggrandizement. They have turned machines. Education has become a means to increase the marketability of these human machines. All this has resulted in a steep decline of moral standards. A good teacher should like the students not to be slaves to this diseased trend. They should rather develop both intellectually and morally, and through what Milton calls ' a harmonious development of body and soul', they would attain confidence and high self-esteem. They should be kept abreast of the common principles of right and wrong, honesty, integrity, and above all humanitarianism. The future generation of the human race will not need any unfeeling genius, but they will look for ones cerebrally and morally well-balanced. To guide students to pursue these ends should be the philosophy of an ideal teacher. Moreover, a teacher's purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.
An anonymous author compares a good teacher with a candle that consumes itself to light the way for others. Only this sort of teacher can bring back the lost tradition or create a new tradition in teaching. Our Bangladesh is in urgent need of teachers of this sort!r
Dr Rashid Askari writes fiction and columns and teaches English literature at Kushtia Islamic University.
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