Being a teacher is, beyond any doubt, one of the hardest jobs I know. It requires features somewhat forgotten, such as patience, flexibility, attention, tolerance, and a fair amount of love. It is going through such an experience every 50 minutes in a universe full of different minds. Teachers are required to be committed, dedicated, motivated, and also to have a lot of knowledge. Teaching in Brazil, a country in which education has not been the foremost issue, requires even more.
Once I was asked whether I had any pleasure to be a teacher. I did not take long for a positive answer, which I was very proud of (I still am). I have been teaching English for 18 years now. I started as a very young teacher and I am satisfied to say that year after year I have built my career with dedication and love. I have taught in different kinds of schools: municipal, state, private language institute ones. I have tried not to do the same every year, as I make an effort to refresh my practice every conference or congress I attend to, every conversation I have with other teachers and students, every chance of getting better that comes to me.
We have to learn how to take advantage from our experiences. On one occasion I was asked whether I would like to be my own student. This question made me reflect about a lot of issues and after some time I was glad my answer would be clear: yes. Yes, I do have pleasure to say that I am a teacher and that I made, have made and will certainly make part of a lot of people’s life. The pleasure means not only teaching, but also exchanging knowledge and culture. Along these years a lot of students have become my (close) friends. Of course it is not something that happens out of the blue, but it may happen.
Being a teacher is to perform a vital role in one’s life. It is a daily opportunity to know yourself and (try) to find out what is going on in every mind, which is not easy. It is lovely to help build knowledge and contribute to the personal and intellectual development of those who one day will be doctors, nurses, bricklayers, philosophers, and why not to say, teachers? Being a teacher is one of the greatest opportunities to renew our thoughts and opinions. It means spending hours and hours planning activities that may last 1 hour or 5 minutes. Being a teacher is to have enormous pleasure when a student is able to perform what was asked and better, when the student is able to perform on their own. It is to provide ways so that the students can follow their own paths. Furthermore, being a teacher is being a mother, a father, a psychologist, a friend, the one who listens and gives some advice. It is to put yourself in your students’ shoes and try to make them to be committed as much as possible. The one who says teachers only have to teach has the faintest idea what the profession is about.
Many people say technologies have come to replace everything and everyone. A teacher? I do not believe it, on the very contrary. The teacher still is the one who mediates different situations, transforming information into knowledge. The machine gives us information and it is more than necessary, but it still is way far from taking the role of any teacher out. The one who is able to use any technology today with knowledge has advantages, as our students are fully connected and we cannot live in islands whose motto is “when I was a student it did not happen like that”. Times have changed, the conditions, maybe, but the role of the teacher remains unmistakable.
I have built my teaching life based on good examples and hard work. There were obstacles, of course, but they were far from interferring in my desire and love to learn and teach. A better salary? Everybody would like it. Necessary? I would say fair. That “thank you” after a class or even after some years is totally priceless. I believe the job may be easier if you are a well paid teacher who works under good conditions in a nice school. However, I also believe teachers who work in schools which are not the best place due to their settings and surroundings have to do their best as well. Money should not be the decisive point to determine whether teachers should work this or the other way. It is important that teachers build a high self-esteem so that they may be able to do their job to the fullest. It is rewarding to listen to a “Yes, you were important to my life! ”. We sometimes think that we might not have been important or made any difference. We have left good and bad traces, from which we need to learn what to do and not to do as professionals. We as teachers need to be mature enough to realize what and how we have performed in the past years and take advantage of what has worked well.
I know I still have the satisfaction of the job every beginning of semester, before the very first day of class, when I feel butterflies in my stomach. Losing such a feeling means losing the pleasure. It is also gratifying when, by the end of the year, we listen to a “Teacher, are you staying with us next year?”. I usually ask myself whether we teachers are aware of how huge our responsibility is, because a teacher not only transmits knowledge, but also sets examples, guides, inspires, searches, interacts, says no, challenges, walks by one’s side, stretches out a hand whenever it is neccesary. We must be proud to say and admit that we are the ones who frame all the other professions. Being a teacher is an unmistakable role.
Rafaela Zang Mesquita
is a Brazilian English teacher and has been teaching for 18 years now. She has a university degree in Modern Languages from Unisinos and also Specialization Courses in English Teaching and Pedagogical Coordination from Ulbra and ISEI. She teaches English to teenagers and adults and has been a pedagogical coordinator in a private school and language institute.