The Three Teachers
by Aziz Soubai.
I can talk about the teachers who influenced my life until the cows come home. There are so many teachers who shaped my personality, the way I think and see the world, and they all deserve paying tribute to. However, I would like to focus on the three teachers, each one of whom represents a particular phase in my personal and professional life.
When I was in the 5th grade (11 or 12 years old), I was taught by a very tough and compassionate teacher (I will later explain why I use this apparently weird combination of adjectives to describe him). At that time I was hard-working and paid a lot of attention in class. I was actually among the three top students. At this very young age, we were all in awe of this great teacher. Why? Simply because he put an incredible amount of effort into explaining the material. I wonder now if he had ever experienced some kind of burnout. It was clear that he was obviously in love with the profession, he loved teaching. This love made him unstoppable. At first we couldn’t keep up with his huge enthusiasm to teach and engage us in the process, but later on, we (or let’s say some of us) loved his personality and methodology. Those who couldn’t keep up were having problems at first and then they changed their style and became good students. At the end of semester and school year, we organized a school party and discovered the other, hidden part of our teacher’s character – he could be, in fact, very sweet. For instance, he shared some stories about his personal life and sometimes jokes and this made us giggle a little, but with total respect. At that time we began to understand that this seemingly strict attitude was just his expression of tough love.
I have a mix of bitter and sweet memories of my high school years. At that troublesome time, during that adolescent boredom, especially in the first year, my motivation level hits the bottom. I turned from a hard-working, studious learner into a little troublemaker and this, of course, affected my grades, particularly in English and Arabic. I managed to move on to the next level because I successfully prepared for other exams. And that was when my story with the second teacher began. I was not a science major in high school, but the funny thing is, I became extremely passionate about natural science because of the teacher. This teacher was not only passionate but also exceptionally knowledgeable. He had a unique, soothing voice. He brought in extra information and stories and could always find a way to incorporate them into his teaching materials, which made the whole process interesting and beautiful. Some of his natural science lessons are still stuck in my memory to this day. More importantly, this unique teacher had zero classroom issues, even though those very students were uncontrollable and behaved in all sorts of ways in other school subjects.
University teachers had a tremendous effect on me and the kind of language I speak and write. I loved to learn foreign languages from a very young age, especially English and French. I was addicted to American shows and series, picking up so many words and idiomatic expressions particularly from Oprah, Dr.Phil, and Friends. I had a huge passion for English literature and poetry, and that passion increased to a great extent in the fourth year at university, when I was taught by another awesome teacher. He used to read poetry aloud in class, chanting beautifully with rhymes and rhythm.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man…
These lines from the poem “Kubla Khan” by S.T. Coleridge are still carved in my memory. They were like soft music to my ear. This way of teaching made me eager to read and enjoy more long pieces of poetry, like T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” Bottomline is, not only the teaching techniques or strategies the teacher used left an impact, but also his ardent passion for teaching, which was contagious. Research shows that “the best teachers are passionate about teaching. They are intensely curious about the world and love learning new things. They are also driven by a deep desire to teach and help others. These teachers give their heart and soul to their work, and to the students they teach.”
I believe that touching people’s lives and making them better citizens and individuals should be the ultimate purpose of education and teaching. It is not about how much technology you incorporate in the lessons or how many visual aids and colors you use in your class. Instead, it is about how much energy, enthusiasm, and passion you have for this tough profession. It is about how you turn a very lazy, unmotivated learner into a creative one. My final message is, love your job or change it. Otherwise, you will continuously suffer on a personal and professional level because you expect others to love what you don’t love. And this is the very definition of doublethink.