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Mar 1, 2010
If education is an act of “renewal” in beliefs, ideas, hopes, happiness, misery, and practices, a renewal that contributes towards the enhancement and betterment of an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, then an educator is the one who breaths the excitement of the “renewal” into the souls and helps the individuals to fulfill their potential in order to attain the degree of insan-i kamil, a perfect human being. Since education is a continuous process which evolves within the triangle of family, society, and school, then the place of an educator in this context is extremely critical, as the teacher is considered to be sitting in the center of this triangle.

As educators have such an important position in society, it is vital to reflect upon the questions of how a teacher should conduct their teaching and what kind of a personality a teacher should develop in order to fulfill their mission as an educator. Although it is hard to provide satisfactory answers to such deep questions within the scope of a short essay, a couple of points might be worth mentioning.

First of all, an educator should have the dignity of bearing knowledge. They should be aware of the fact that if knowledge is the spirit, a set of actions is the body that carries that spirit. If a teacher is not setting an example for their students with their actions, then the knowledge will lose its meaning in the eyes of the students. As most would agree, the greatest teachers in the humanity appeared among the prophets. Prophets, with all their wisdom and deep knowledge about both the physical and the meta-physical world, first established their reputation in society with their outstanding moral values, and by demonstrating the best examples of human character and behavior. Presenting the values in conduct (tamsil) always comes before teaching the values (tabligh). Changing this order would result in ineffective teaching and inner hypocrisy for one who tries to teach.

A teacher should look at the universe from multiple angles. They should not confine themselves within the walls of the school or within the limits of the syllabus. They should teach their correspondents how to see a view in its multidimensionality and how to turn any input of data into information and thus into knowledge. An educator should not be a transmitter of information before checking whether the “receivers” are ready to detect and absorb the information. One who teaches should never forget that “the purpose of learning is to make knowledge a guide for your life, to illuminate the road to human perfection. Any knowledge that does not fulfill these functions is a burden for the learner and any science that does not direct one toward sublime goals is only deception.”

As Bertrand Russell stated, “The good individual is he who ministers to the good of the whole, and the good of the whole is a pattern made up of the goods of the individuals.” A teacher should build bridges between each person and society by using the school environment as a construction site, and mobilize the unique potential embedded in human personalities for the use of society, and more generally, humanity. Nobody should be treated as insignificant and as a result no capabilities of the students will be wasted. The greatest and most dangerous waste is the waste of human capital. A teacher knows that every human being is actually a miniature universe and that each one of their apprentices is as valuable as the heavens. The emotional, spiritual, and physical aspects of human nature offer such a wide spectrum of colors that the ideal teacher will enable their students to discover their own colors within this spectrum.

Teachers are the architectures of character. A teacher is expected to see every student as a possible masterpiece and to construct that masterpiece according to a carefully designed, individual and specific plan. This is not an easy task. No one person can fit into all the dresses in this shop. The teacher has to make their students think that they are special, that they are cared for, and that the teacher is tearing down the walls of limitations with bare hands to make room for them. Even though the teacher may not be able to make the difference that they intend to, their actions and then their intentions, which carry on after their actions are exhausted, will send the message to the students. This is what it means to make a difference in the lives of one’s students. The human body develops from one fertilized egg; the human spirit and character is far more advanced than the body, turning small seeds into giant fruit bearing trees.

Educators are advocates on behalf of their students, defending their weaknesses in learning, and looking for different approaches to overcome the obstacles between the knowledge and the student. Teachers can only prosecute themselves. They see their students’ failures as their own failures and never indulge in the luxury of self-forgiveness. Like poets who treat their verses like their children, yet always try to replace them with better ones, teachers ask themselves if their students could be any better than they are in terms of what they have learnt from them.

Teaching is also learning. A teacher learns from their students how to become a better educator. A good teacher should be able to listen to the silent words that pour from their students’ tongues of disposition. Students may not talk to the teacher directly, but their looks, facial expressions, their interactions with their teacher, their voice levels and tones, all reflect a teacher’s ability to instruct. Educators who do not carefully observe these signs are like those who close their eyes during the bright daylight and wonder why they cannot see.

If a teacher considers teaching to be a simple matter and is never aware of the burden of making an impact on others, then one must wonder about the dedication of this teacher. A teacher must be willing to take this road while also being aware of the long distances, deep valleys and oceans of hardships ahead. As Rumi stated, in the end, a teacher should be ready to say “I was raw; I was cooked; now I am burned.”

Yasin Ceran is a math teacher in Dallas, Texas.