Topic 9: You have to be a ‘Teacher of Learners’ first, and then a ‘Teacher of Subjects’

This topic focuses on the first ‘diversion’, mentioned in topic 8, where teachers are caught up in ‘teaching the subject, rather than teaching the learners’.

In the Dalai Lama’s book, My Spiritual Journey, he shares the following wisdom: “If a teacher doesn’t limit himself to academic teaching, if he also takes on the responsibility of preparing his students for life, they will have respect for him and confidence in him. The things they learn from him will leave an indelible print in their minds. Conversely, subjects taught by someone who doesn’t care about his students’ well-being will be of only passing interest to them and will soon be forgotten.”

When we think about teachers who have had a major impact on our lives, we remember that they were more interested in us, as children and human beings, rather than our marks or scores. In general, our scores were very good in these teachers’ subjects, since it is very difficult for children to disappoint teachers whom they know, love and care about them. These teachers have some practices in common:

  • It is not about memorising and test preparation only, but about guiding learners to enjoy what they are doing, because they (the teachers) were enjoying what they were doing (enjoying being teachers, and loving the subject they are teaching);
  • They have relentless interest in you as a learner, more than just test scores and how well you did in the subject;
  • They will genuinely engage (and not just interact) with you as a learners, and not just the subjects, to an extend that you know they care about you;
  • They act with humour, and ensure that you know they are human, and will remind you to utilise the subject knowledge beyond the classroom into real life situations … they use the subject to teach learners about life.

We should not get entangled in subjects and test scores to the point that we forget that we are teaching and shaping learners (young human beings). When the academic scores of learners become more important than preparing learners for life, our real impact on our learners’ lives will be minimal, whilst if we teach them about life, our impact is eternal.

In our methodology, we collect five levels of information from learners, namely (i) biographical, (ii) personal, (iii) socio-economic-cultural, (iv) academic and (v) performance information, through our SiSopen (school intelligent system). Furthermore, in relation to the ‘socio-economic-culture’ information, for example, we collect the ’40 Developmental Assets of Youth’ through a questionnaire, and then empower schools to respond proactively to the ‘lack of support crutches’ in the lives of our learners (see the data shared in topic 8). The information we collect is not about ‘what the school needs to know about the learners’, but also ‘what the learners want the school to know about them’. Like any other job that has to do with human beings … the more you know about the ‘client’ (the learners), the greater the possibility that you will be able to satisfy the ‘need’ of the learners, otherwise it is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ hoping and/or guessing game, rather than the enhancement of the personalised learning of each individual learner in the classroom.


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