Being a teacher is not about stepping into the character of a teacher. It’s about living and embodying the character, which in turn would mean being oneself. Perhaps there is a gap between the teacher role and self during the initial days of one’s profession. But in course of time, one merges with the other and the teacher in you is no more a character who performs, but a living reality that is one with the self. One cannot act being a teacher, but can only be situated in and through the self.
If this is the case, then being a good human being is fundamental to being a good teacher. What is the notion of good human being and a good teacher in the fragmented contemporary is something to be debated and discussed. Let us assume that we had such a discussion and come to a consensus. In spite of the contents of that agreed upon definitions, one can explore what it means for education and creating a humane society.
Being a good human being allows the teacher to empathetic. Empathy is crucial to any teacher-child relationship for teaching is one location where relationships are being shaped in their most enlightened forms. Paulo Freire says that the oppressor cannot initiate a revolution, as it requires being one with the oppressor. Notwithstanding the subjectivities of seeing a direct relationship between the duos of teacher-child and oppressor-oppressed, I say that teaching has immense possibilities of both oppression and emancipation. Empathy is essential for emancipation, if not sufficient. It enables the teacher to be the child, to locate the child within oneself with all her historical contingencies and to travel through the possibilities of herself. In this sense, there is solidarity between the selves. After all, it is this human solidarity that education ought to embody and process.
Elsewhere I have mentioned that teaching morally cannot be seen in separation with teaching. Whether one want it or not, the moral dimension is always an integral part of teaching. Being a good human being is intricately tied to this moral dimension of teaching. It reflects in everyday classroom routine, knowledge construction, curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and all of which the teacher is living a part of.
Being a good human being necessitates one to be responsible towards the world in which one lives, both physical and social. Neither there is any escape from its turmoil and injustice, nor from its joyful possibilities. I cannot imagine the idea of teaching being disconnected from this solidarity, and hence not being internalising the essential qualities of a good human being.
What have I not liked in my teachers? What have my students not liked about the teacher in me? Most part of the innumerable responses to the above questions belong to the inhuman part of my own self and others’. Although only one or two aspects of this inevitability of being a good human being for a good teacher is explored in this note, a deeper analysis of the complex phenomena of teaching will reveal how fundamental it is.
Being a good human being is fundamental to being a good teacher!