Be THE Teacher: 3 Ways To Be More Than Just A Teacher

Teacher. Mentor. Educator. Tutor. These are some distinguished designations we are fondly known as. But what makes the soul of a teacher? What makes us push on to educate, motivate, and raise entire generations of youth who will lead the world? It is the pure passion and sincerity of each teacher to see his or her students flourish into successful leaders who contribute to society. 

Albeit the wonderful thought of passing on knowledge to students, teachers can be much, much more. We’ve all had that one mentor figure whom we strived to emulate – that one individual who believed in us and sent positive ripple effects throughout our lives – THE teacher. 

Good news! As teachers ourselves, we have the potential to be more than just a teacher. In this article, we explore 3 simple ways we can become more than just educators.

Be a Role Model

Teenagers are at a phase in life where they look toward role models – it is part of their learning adjustment. Most of their idols or role models consist of celebrities, social media influencers, and quite possibly, the popular kids at school. Did you know that teachers are potentially the biggest role models to the youth too?

How can teachers be role models? The truth is, not every student will want to be you. However, setting a good example is the best way. Teachers can show interest in learning a thing or two. Remove the “old dog” mindset and adopt a new perspective. A teacher who is constantly learning new things (example: technology/social media/things relatable to teens) encourages students to keep their minds open to new possibilities and learnings.

Another way is to encourage good habits in students. Money management, for example, is the perfect avenue for life-changing lessons. You can use some lessons from your own experience (the more embarrassing, the better they’ll remember).

How would you know if you’re a good role model? Well, we can’t fully know, but chances are, students will be more inclined to ask you about your achievements and life path. Sometimes, being a great teacher isn’t about big changes, it’s the little things.

For more information, watch Nick Fuhrman talk about how to be a great teacher.

Be a Protector

School can be a scary place. Many of us may have experienced some unpleasant encounters as students – whether mental, emotional, physical, or even sexual. Some of these experiences may involve other students, and some, unfortunately, teachers. As teachers, it goes without saying that we must be protectors of our students. We guard them as would their parents, with their best interests in mind.

With online classes, it is easy to let our guard down thinking that students are comfortable and protected at home. The truth may be just the opposite. Their home may be a hostile environment and attending a physical school may have been their only escape. In the first 4 months of 2021 alone, over 900 cases of domestic abuse were reported in Malaysia. This staggering number is the tip of the iceberg compared to the 5260 investigations of the previous year. 

As teachers, we must keep a watchful eye out for warning signs – changes in a student’s behaviour that may indicate something is aloof at home. 

What actions can we as protectors take? Firstly, create a safe space for students to share their experiences. Be present, be sensitive. A child experiencing trauma may not be open to talk about what goes on at home. You may need to gently coerce the student to talk about the situation. Most of all, if there are any who are struggling and facing a difficult time, we must act. Highlight the issues discreetly to the relevant authorities – whether in school or outside and seek help. 

Teach For Malaysia is one site that has further resources and teacher guides to tackle matters such as these. It will be a first step of many to come on the road to recovery and protection for our students. 

Be a Friend

This is easier said than done. Most students see us as authority figures, thanks to our age gaps. Being a friend involves trusting each other and ultimately, listening to them. Students, particularly teenagers, need to communicate their feelings, thoughts, aspirations, and dreams to someone. Why not you?

Set aside time to communicate with your students about topics other than those in the school syllabus. Ask them about their interests, their family background, their life goals. Be sincere in receiving their answers when you ask questions. Do not judge, let them communicate their feelings. You don’t have to offer advice either, just provide an ear to hear their side of the story. You’ll be pleasantly surprised when they treat you as a friend.

There are many ways teachers can make a lasting impact on students. These 3 are sure ways to create a lifetime of motivation and desire to be successful. Remember, it isn’t the big changes that matter, it’s the little things – a role model, a protector, a friend. Practise these points above and you’ll be a better person overall and THE best teacher.

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