Smooth seas have never made skilled sailors
The title for my article comes from an African proverb that I believe reveals a lot about between teacher challenges and growth.
The challenges educators face in the developing world are vital in making professionals in the education field stronger, in the sense that challenges sharpen their adaptation skills. However, this requires that teachers are passionate enough about this profession to meet the challenges. Otherwise, they will simply quit and hate the day they chose to teach.
Nevertheless, even passionate teachers might endure setbacks, and might at times feel stuck somewhere and have difficulty finding the courage to work harder. They feel like they are “ploughing the sea”. The teachers’ endless physical, emotional efforts are met with a variety of results. Some teachers feel reborn each time they face a challenge. Others simply feel unable to carry on. This is indeed due to the intricacies of their emotional, attitudinal, and physical strength. Everyone is different. Professional teachers deliberately act strong both emotionally and physically, even though they might cry behind the scenes. They learn to be stronger after each professional failure and each disappointment.
Exceptional teachers are unsung heroes
Asma is the name of an exceptional, passionate Tunisian teacher. She has defied all kinds of difficulties to be the teacher she is. I encountered her during one of my regular classroom visits and I will never forget the stamina, creativity, and empathy she displayed during my visit. I was amazed at the professional she is in an under-resourced boarding school in a remote area of the country. She made the classroom brighter; she pushed the students to be more confident and she added much warmth to the surroundings. Her empathy towards her students made her the “queen of hearts”. She is a teacher, who, despite all odds, carries her passion and verve ablaze. She is the reason students collaborate with each other and teach each other. What also surprised me is that she has regularly scheduled free sessions open to all students, the ones she taught and even the ones she did not teach. What made her do this? Her passion for her profession is unequaled. Any free time was devoted to those teens, to sharpen their team skills and propel their motivation.
We need more teachers like Asma
Are the teachers who are like Asma becoming extinct?
No, not really. There are many unsung heroes like Asma, who do not get noticed or thanked. Counterintuitively, this rare species of teacher does not expect official gratitude, though they deserve it. They teach from the heart and go through many hardships, but never complain or make excuses. Education needs noble heroes like Asma.
COVID-19 has made it clear that our education system needs constant updating
Thanks to COVID-19, we are more aware that the global digital divide is getting wider and wider. We are in dire need of renewing the tools so as to achieve some of our primary education goals. Socioeconomic factors are one of the major obstacles that slow down the process of renovation and revamping technology. Yet, with the untapped potential of the majority of professionals in the education sector, there are endless possibilities of learning that need to be taken. Professionals in Tunisia have valuable assets that would take the country to an upper level of development, but only if they are given the right opportunities.
Still, we need to work harder and stop making excuses. Miracles do not happen when people complain more than they work. Challenges exist, yet surmounting them is the first step towards more constructive choices. Once the challenges inside one’s head are silenced, the challenges outside are not the real enemies.
We cling to HOPE despite all odds
There is still hope that we are in the process of defying all odds. Teachers like Asma, many highly motivated teacher trainers I have learned much from, other professionals I am co-working with, and many dedicated professionals in the field do make a difference and are blazing trails. Their mindset, their professionalism, their creativity represent the real light that paves the way towards a brighter tomorrow.
“Ninety percent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” George Washington Carver