The Teacher is a Person. She has an identity of her own

 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.

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