Editorial: Great teachers inspire

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Giddy-up! Because we are about to jump our education horse for World Teachers’ Day 2018.  We may be a day late but you had to know that we would not let World Teachers’ Day 2018 pass without taking the opportunity to thank our teachers for their hard work and say a thing or two about education.
World Teachers’ Day is recognised on October 5, every year and has been celebrated since 1994. It commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. This year is special, in that it will mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). That declaration recognises education as a key fundamental right and establishes an entitlement to free compulsory education, ensuring inclusive and equitable access for all children.
Those were lofty goals back in 1948 but luckily those fundamental rights and access to education have been achieved in our bit of paradise. For that we can be proud. That may sound like a ‘shrug-your-shoulders’ type of achievement but it is significant. To say that every child has access to public education through secondary school is a boast that not every country can make. Not only that, we can boast of a fairly high literacy rate that is better than most countries in the world. So while our education system needs improvement, it does give our kids a fighting chance in a world of dwindling natural resources, where education is the key to success. To put it further into perspective, UNESCO estimates that there are 264 million children and youth still out of school globally and to reach the 2030 Education Goals of universal primary and secondary education, the world needs to recruit almost 69 million new teachers. That is a lot of children and a lot of teachers to get to our basic level.
This year’s theme is: “The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher.” According to UNESCO, the theme was chosen “to remind the global community that the right to education cannot be achieved without the right to trained and qualified teachers.”   This is an important point and very relevant to our education system as we seek to make it better. Qualified, professional teachers are key to a quality education because, to put it bluntly, not everyone can teach! And, there are a lot of “teachers” out there who should not be teaching.
The great Greek philosopher and scientist, Aristotle, said, “Those who know, do. Those who understand, teach.” That is at the core of teaching. Many people know the subject matter but you need to understand the subject in order to teach. We have touched on this in many ways before but we will rely on famed U.S. author William Arthur Ward to nail down the real differences in teaching. According to Ward, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”  That about sums it up.  
Teaching is a calling. It is not something you do just for a pay cheque on a ‘9 to 5’ shift. It is a vocation – something that gives great satisfaction every day of life. We suggest that if there is a teacher out there who does not love teaching, in every way, and is simply doing it as a job, then they are in the wrong profession. Obviously, a qualified teacher does not necessarily mean a great teacher, as per Ward’s definition, but it is a first step. Qualification not only allows an assessment of the candidate, it allows the candidate to assess teaching as a career.  
Let us be clear, we are not talking qualification in the subject matter, we are talking about qualification as a teacher – the ability to inspire. As we said before, not everyone can teach, no matter how well they know about a subject. If we are allowed to use a sports analogy, we can look at Phil Jackson, a man many consider to be the greatest basketball coach of all time. Jackson was a decent basketball player.  He was drafted in the second round in 1967 by the New York Nicks but he never amounted to much more than a good substitute. What he was known for was basketball intelligence and hard work. That fact that Jackson had less natural talent than others, meant that he had to compensate with knowledge of the game – a game which he loved. All of those characteristics made Jackson a great coach. He was able to inspire his players and that led to championships – 11, in fact.
“Greatest of all time” is subjective but there is no doubt that he was great and that greatness is seen in the players he inspired. While he may have had two of the greatest players of all time when he won his 11 championships, it should be noted that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were championship winners only under the teaching/coaching of Phil Jackson.
The same applies to teachers and teaching. We can all remember the great teachers in our lives. The ones who inspired us to not just go to class but to go beyond. While we thank our teachers for the important work that they do, we would like every teacher to think of how they can inspire the students in their class everyday. We know that you work in an often challenging environment with limited resources but the majority of teaching is beyond facilities and resources. It is in the ability to inspire! Happy belated World Teachers’ Day.

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