The teacher is a hallowed entity, a sanctified, consecrated and a highly venerated person. The notion of a teacher as a mystic figure often prompts us to forget the person behind the teacher. Who is a teacher? According to the English lexicon, a teacher is a person who teaches, educates, instructs, trains, coaches or tutors. But, in order to teach, educate, instruct or train others, we need a person, a human being, not a robot. A teacher is basically a person who has personal traits that propel him/her in the right direction. It has to be acknowledged that the personal traits of a teacher play a pivotal role in the conduct of his/her business as a teacher.
The traditional notion of a teacher is that of an authoritarian ruler as portrayed by Oliver Goldsmith in his poem The Village Schoolmaster who ‘even though vanquished could argue still.’ In all the societies, the very word ‘teacher’r invokes an image of a seer to be respected and obeyed by the high and mighty as well as the common people. As a person, he/she is supposed to be honest, upright, selfless and dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and the enlightenment of his/her pupils or disciples.
Though the teacher has always an aura of holiness and enlightenment, his personal traits may often affect his image as a teacher. If he is not groomed in the right direction even before joining his profession he may create havoc in the lives of his pupils. A little wavering on the part of a teacher or turpitude is enough to cause ripples in the society. The questionable way in which the Mahabharata famed Dronacharyya succumbed to prejudice against Karna belonging to a lower caste is a metaphorical commentary on the personality of a teacher. The content knowledge and the pedagogy can be acquired by a person if he wants to be a teacher, but if he is deficient in the human qualities essential for distinguishing him as a teacher in a social context, he is bound to be a misfit in the profession. Therefore, any policy decision on teacher education should put special emphasis on the teacher as a person.
The personal traits, the philosophy and the world view of a teacher are bound to be influenced by the norms of the society to which he belongs. In a consumer driven economy we cannot expect a teacher to adhere to the ancient Indian philosophy of plain living and high thinking. A teacher candidate born and brought up in the midst of the political and social turmoil of the last three decades is already a victim of social degeneration. Rural educated young men and women for whom one world is dead and the other powerless to be born are often a frustrated lot. Even the urban youth exposed to industrialization and globalization suffer from a sense of alienation.
The assumptions and propositions regarding the teacher as a person are bound to be influenced by the social perception of a community or a nation. Why do we need teachers or teacher candidates? Do we need them just to perpetuate a social ritual called education or do we need them to usher in a new chapter of sustainable social development in consonance with long term vision of our social engagement? In spite of our high expectations, do we ever care to look into the inner landscape of a teacher candidate who intends to join the teaching profession?
Many psychologists have pointed out that in order to be a successful teacher a person must possess emotional intelligence in terms of self-awareness, altruism, personal motivation and empathy. As the teacher will be entrusted with the responsibility of enhancing the cognitive as well the emotional development of the pupils, it is imperative on the part of the teacher candidates to sharpen their emotional intelligence during their formative years. Again, teacher candidates whose cognitive and emotional development is not up to the desired level may find it difficult to help the pupils in the right direction. Therefore, instead of selecting teacher candidates for a course in education on the basis of their academic performance, a test to evaluate their personal traits and emotional intelligence should be administered as a screening test.
The teacher’s personality as a human being has the most powerful influence on the children and therefore, it should be treated as a basic competence for the teacher- students. It has to be kept in mind that a teacher student is basically a common human being having a specific evolutionary history—- psychological, behavioral, social and cultural. Her transformation as a teacher does not necessarily obliterate her evolutionary history as a human being. Therefore, her readiness to balance her personal identity and the professional identity will be the most crucial factor in her career as a teacher. It has to be kept in mind that a teacher’s personal engagement with her environment and her personal world view will have a very strong influence on the growth and development of her personality as a teacher.