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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The present state of anarchy  plaguing the  English language teaching scenario   of  the vernacular medium schools of India calls for a sound pedagogical practice of  multilingual teaching suitable for the Indian context, not the Euro-centric multilingual pedagogy used in the USA or  the UK. A teacher teaching English in a multilingual setting should use a multilingual pedagogy  built on   her   awareness of the languages used by her pupils as their first languages. Based on  the teacher’s   awareness of the languages used by her pupils, a set of multilingual strategies should be  developed to nurture the linguistic competence of the pupils  in their  first language as well as in the target language.

An explicit knowledge  about  languages  available in her immediate neighbourhood and  an  awareness of the  language used by her  pupils and a  a sensitivity   to the languages of the learners …… these    are some  of the  prerequisites for  a teacher using multilingual strategies  in her English class room.  Soliciting responses from her pupils, a teacher  can promote  questioning about language to develop linguistic understandings of her pupils. A  teacher teaching English and the regional language at the primary level should try to find out ways  of  creatively exploiting  the different languages  available  in a given classroom.  The English teacher interested in using a multilingual strategy should tap  into their pupils’ familiarity with more than one  languages to advance the learning of the target language. Bringing one language to another is the essence of a multilingual  pedagogy used for  developing the linguistic as well as the cognitive  abilities of  the pupils who come  from a non-English speaking background. By using cognitively challenging tasks in multiple languages , the English teacher  may  turn the language class into simplified version of   a linguistics class which aims at generating enough linguistic inputs for the  pupils as well as the teacher to reflect and learn

A  multilingual language awareness  is a must for teachers  of multilingual pupils.  Teachers  should  understand   the important role  that the first language plays  on the development of a  second language  and of the interdependence  of  the languages  known to the pupils.  English teachers  working in a multilingual context  should be capable of building on their pupils’ first language  and literacy to develop literacy  in the target language.