The role of teachers in a student’s life
Teachers have existed as long as humankind, and although the formats may change over time, their influence remains constant and significant.
Teaching is one of the oldest professions. The first forms of education appeared in ancient civilizations; there is evidence that the oldest formal school was opened in ancient Egypt, around 2000 BC. Back then, the privilege of education was reserved only for the descendants of royal houses and sons of aristocracy, or people from respectable professions, such as scribes, doctors, or court officials. In other words, the importance of education has been recognized since the very beginning of human civilization.
People advance from generation to generation thanks to knowledge transfer. Imagine if each generation had to start from scratch; if there was no developed language, no law, electricity, modern buildings and infrastructure, medicine, or the Internet – if there was nothing. Imagine if each generation had to create living conditions without the knowledge of the previous generations. It sounds terrifying. For that reason, the transfer of knowledge among people is vital for the whole world, and teachers play a key role in this transfer.
The role of teachers through history
Throughout history, teachers have played a role in shaping people’s character, which is not surprising, given the fact that a person’s character and personality are formed at an early age. In ancient times, teachers had somewhat different roles than they do today.
Teachers as a symbol
In ancient times, the teacher was considered a symbol of truth, beauty, and purity. Ancient India valued teachers very highly for their selfless service, high learning, and moral and spiritual purity.
Continuous transfer of knowledge was possible only with the help of teachers, and students had to rely on them, given that the printing press had not been invented yet, and there were no books. For that reason, teachers were shown great respect. They had to be honorable and moral people with a good grasp of their teaching area.
Teachers as guru
The word guru comes from Sanskrit. Gu stands for darkness, and Ru for light that dispels it, meaning that guru means one who dispels the darkness of ignorance, a person who guides young people toward light.
Guru is the name for a spiritual teacher in Hinduism, Sikhism and Tantric Buddhism. The ancient ideal of the guru was identified with the teacher, he was a source of wisdom and possessed absolute authority. He was associated with intellectual, spiritual and moral quality. The teacher was considered indispensable for students in their search for knowledge and the path to “awakening” from the dream of reality. It was the teacher who helped students to see the reality as it really was.
Teachers as advisors
The counseling role of teachers has remained relevant to this day. Throughout history, teachers enjoyed great respect in society, and their advice to students was not restricted solely to education, but extended to private matters as well.
This role has remained until today, but it has been modified, adapted to the modern age. Teachers now work with high school and university students to help them make important academic decisions that will guide them toward success in their future career. Those who work with high school students can offer advice on the courses they should take, when to take entrance exams, such as SAT and ACT, how to apply for the desired college/university, how to apply for financial aid, which training programs should be taken into consideration based on their qualifications, desires, etc.
The role of teachers in the modern age
The teacher used to have a central place in the education system. However, in the modern age, the student has taken the teacher’s place as the center of attention. We now consider student needs, their interests, preferences, age and potential as priority.
Teachers are no longer expected to teach each student in the exact same way. Contrary to tradition when they were once expected to teach using the same methods that had been used in the previous generations, any deviation from traditional practices was discouraged by supervisors, or prohibited by various laws and regulations.
The education process no longer involves rote learning of facts. It is now a process of extracting knowledge and potential from children. Teachers assess students’ nature, observe their interests, encourage them to reach their full potential, and inspire them to give their best. A modern teacher is expected to encourage students, provide suggestions, and empathize with them. He/she discreetly guides students to ask questions and reach conclusions on their own.
Teacher’s attention must be increasingly focused on the individual characteristics of each child. This is particularly important as America continues to be the country with the highest level of multiculturalism on the planet.
Teachers as leader
Leadership is perhaps the most important quality of modern people. Leaders establish connections with other people, and possess the ability to make everyone part of their mission. They possess a number of respectable qualities.
Teachers do not only have to help students master the teaching material, but also to transfer skills that will be useful in students’ personal lives. The role of a teacher is to create creative, well-informed and innovative individuals. The teacher, as a true leader, must guide students toward becoming leaders themselves, because leadership involves initiative, and nothing big will ever happen if we do not leave our comfort zone and step into the unknown.
Teachers as role model
A role model is someone who inspires and encourages us. Someone whose patterns of behavior we absorb and imitate, whether consciously or unconsciously. Given that children are at an age when they imitate everyone around them, usually unconsciously, and thus on a deeper level, the role of a teacher can be crucial in shaping their character.
Good teachers will not only speak, they will demonstrate and illustrate. There are countless examples when a teacher’s behavior shaped the personality of their students. For example, when the teacher makes a mistake, and it happens even to the best of them, they should not try to hide it from the children. Instead, they should say that they’ve made a mistake loud and clear. That way, they demonstrate that one should not be afraid of making mistakes, but accept them and learn from them. Another example involves teachers who strive to emphasize only positive things, thus teaching children that focusing on the silver lining and not letting oneself fall prey to despair is a good thing.
Teachers can also teach children critical thinking through modeling. When making important decisions, the teacher will think aloud, highlighting the pros and cons of the problem, and when passing judgments, the teacher will approach each aspect impartially. This way, students will unconsciously adopt critical thinking and apply it in the future.
It is through modeling that teachers teach students different moral values, and are able to instill qualities such as honesty, fairness, respect, commitment, and many others into them. This is another reason why teachers play a very important role in a student’s life.
Teachers as motivator
The best teachers are able to get their students to view themselves as people capable of great things. If a student truly believes in his/her value, this belief will be transferred to real life.
Numerous studies have shown the power of belief, and teachers can indeed influence their students’ beliefs to a great extent. Exceptional teachers constantly encourage students, and have the power to change their mindset.
The teacher as a motivator has the task to inspire student interest, which is very important, because an interest in learning directly affects learning achievement. There are several ways to stimulate student interest. The teacher can try to explain the purpose of learning a particular subject, by explaining to the children why it is important to know specific content, and what benefits they can get from it. Student interest will increase once they are aware of the benefits of mastering certain content.
Another important factor in stimulating student interest is their enjoyment in the learning process. Sincer there is a correlation between the feeling of satisfaction when learning, and achieving good results.
Teachers as a guide
Choosing a career path is nowadays quite a difficult decision for students. They are faced with the problem of plenty. In the modern age, there are so many options, that defining one’s path is a real challenge. The teacher has an important role here too.
In addition to helping students to define their short term goals, teachers are also important when it comes to long-term goals. The teacher assumes the role of a mentor in a way, helping students to discover their hidden talents and interests. Moreover, teachers help students to choose a career in line with their affinities.
Teachers as friend
The famous Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda, once said: “The only true teacher is one who can immediately come down to the level of the student, and transfer his soul to the student’s soul, and see through the student’s eyes, and hear through his ears, and understand through his mind. Such a teacher can teach and none else”.
A friend is someone who understands us and someone we can rely on. If the teacher takes on the role of a friend, learning ceases to be an obligation, and becomes pleasure. Students react better to friendship than authority. If students view their teacher as a friend, they will not hesitate to openly express their opinions, which results in a better mutual understanding, and a relationship based on openness and trust. Such a relationship also has a positive effect on student mental health.