Teachers’ Day has just passed, and I am sure all of you have celebrated your dearest teachers in schools and respective tuition centres. As students, friends and family members around me wished me a happy teachers’ day, I began to reflect on what it means to be a teacher.
The fond memories I had of Teachers’ Day started with my sister who was a teacher. I remember the yearly Teachers’ Day gifts she would bring back and how I would wait eagerly for her to return home and open up gifts with her. Back then, I could feel the appreciation that the students had for my sister, and without a doubt, I believe my sister had impacted the lives of those children. That was when I knew that being an educator means more than teaching from textbooks and knowing the right answers. It means that we get to deeply influence a child in ways that we cannot imagine.
Now, as a teacher, my goal is to create opportunities for students to learn. I want to make learning an enjoyable process. More than that, I want to ensure that it is a journey in which every student can discover for themselves how to solve difficult questions on the paper and find that determination in them to tackle other greater challenges in life.
Sounds awfully ambitious, especially when I only see each student 2 hours a week. However, I strongly believe that learning doesn’t just start and end in the classroom and what I should share is more than academic knowledge.
Learning starts with you and does not only happen when there is a teacher. This is why today, I would like to share with you a few tips on how to keep up a good learning spirit that will help you make the best of every opportunity to learn.
This means that even if you make mistakes, try.
One of the greatest basketball players, Michael Jordan, did not become successful overnight. As a child, he was not the tallest, and his brother and his best friend were much more athletic than he was. However, he did not let that stop him. He continued trying. He trained tirelessly and eventually, his hard work paid off. Although retired, Michael Jordan is still one of the greatest athletes known in the world.
My advice to all my students is, “Try. Never leave a question blank.” I believe that it is better to attempt a difficult question and learn from your mistakes later than to not give it a shot at all and wait for the correct answer.
Trying also means that you push yourself ahead. It is a way of telling yourself, “I may be wrong, but I will be able to do this someday.” By keeping this little word in your mind, you are silently building grit and perseverance daily.
Understand and not just know!
To know is only the surface of attaining knowledge. To understand is the processing and application of knowledge.
What teachers and textbooks can do for you is to impart knowledge. They provide information and facts that are accurate and applicable. However, if you fail to understand how the answer is reached, you will always be stuck at the question.
I recall vividly that I was very weak in Mathematics, and I constantly struggled with problem sums. Once, I went into my brother’s room to seek help in answering a challenging problem sum. Unlike me, he was adept at solving Mathematical problems. He stared at the question for a minute and wrote down 3 numbers on the paper. Those were the answers. I chuckled and said, “I have the answers, but I need to know how to get the answers!” My brother laughed too. Then, he explained the question to me and gave me the first equation. I looked at the tall boy with wide eyes. His reply was simply, “Find the next step. You have to do it on your own to understand.”
That incident is etched in my mind. From then on, I knew that understanding was more crucial to learning than knowing the answer. Only by understanding, can you progress in your learning.
Can you teach it?
When I was in Primary School, my favourite pastime was to play “pretend classroom”. The first step was to take a lot of unwanted paper and scribble random names on them to make them worksheets. Next, I would use the living room as my classroom and distribute the worksheets to my invisible students who were seated on the floor. Finally, I would teach.
However, I was not teaching randomly. I was teaching what I had learnt in school that day. My favourite subject was Chinese and I would take out my textbook and pretend to scribble on the wall, which was my whiteboard, the vocabulary I had learnt that day. More than that, I would move on to explain the meaning of the words and phrases to… no one. However, playing “pretend classroom” helped me tremendously in my learning. I went on to achieve distinctions in all my Chinese examinations and even won an award for my Chinese composition.
As I entered University, I struggled to explain certain complex concepts to my friends who did not take the same course as I did. That was when I realised that when I cannot explain or teach what I have learnt, it means that I have not fully understood the information that I have read or been taught.
This particular quote struck me hard. As an educator, I want to constantly expand my knowledge, but more than that, I want to be able to impart knowledge.
For students, I believe that learning becomes effective when you are able to teach or explain to your peers what you have learnt. If you can teach it, you can perfect it.
It is not easy to be an educator, and I do not mean an educator by profession. Parents, you too are educators in your children’s lives, and students, you too are educators in your siblings’ and peers’ lives. However, if we can all constantly encourage one another to pursue learning, education, attending school and tuitions will not longer be daunting for us.
I hope that you have enjoyed the post!
Final quote of the day:
If you have any inspirational quotes that you would like to share, feel free to post it in the comments below!