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Many children in this world are unfed, uncared for, unloved, even abused. Can we as teachers compensate in some small way by giving them our tender, loving care and compassion? This is the ultimate religion of Humankind and we would be fulfilling God’s very purpose of life on earth.  V P Mohan reflects on the significance of Teachers’ Day.

It was Hari Guru (Teachers’ Day), 1983.  A group of trainee teachers was going round presenting orchids to the lecturers in appreciation of our work.  As I received my orchid, a trainee posed this question: “Sir, what do you think about on Hari Guru?”

Yes, while our pupils go round expressing their appreciation and gratitude in many tangible and intangible ways, what should we reflect on – on a day dedicated to honour the teaching profession?  It had always been a habit of mind with me, while I was in service, to do some intellectual stock-taking at the end of the year.  Then when Hari Guru was launched,  I did it on the appointed day.  Any teacher with a sense of professionalism ought to pause and ponder and evaluate her own performance and achievements in in the course of the preceding year.  Unless we can do this honestly, we will never realise your merits and  demerits, and improving our professional lacks will remain unattained.

We have to realise that we are no longer the sole imparters of knowledge. With the advent of television, distance and on-line education and the Internet, society may appear to place a low premium on the teacher and his role in education.  With the arrival of CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction) this may become increasingly so.  Before long we will hear of robots in the classroom!

But no robot, however sophisticated, can equal the human personality – men and women with hearts and minds and souls and limitless capacities to shape positively the lives of those whom they teach.  In the education system, the key factor is the teacher.  Are not teachers best placed to inculcate and imbibe in pupils the virtues and values of life?  To be effective and efficient in the discharge of our duties, we need to be knowledgeable and professionally skilful and this would demand keeping abreast of the latest developments and techniques in the learning and teaching.  We need not only to motivate our children but also to inspire them to reach greater heights in life.

It will be a sad day for the teaching profession if men and women of flesh and blood perform their tasks robot-like – uncommitted, uncaring and treating teaching as a mechanical chore!  Kahlil Gibran, the great Lebanese philosopher, in talking  about doing work with love says:

    “For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread.”

The greatest teachers in history were the prophets, and their message to humanity has outlived them to ennoble the minds and purify the hearts of humanity for all time.  The record of the treatment meted out to them is a dismal one.  Despite this, you and I had the courage and conviction to become teachers!

It is important that the teachers enjoy justice and are treated fairly in the system.  If the powers that be are tempted to shortchange teachers, they had better be warned for, as the great Indian philosopher, Kabir, says, “If you rob teachers in the body, they in turn will rob children in the soul.”

These are challenging times and as our country strives to create a K-based society to produce human capital of the highest quality, we have a crucial role to play.  As we put our shoulders to the wheel in our nation’s education efforts, I hope we will apply ourselves with diligence, devotion and dedication to our task. It is not sufficient to teach, to stimulate and motivate children to learn. Indeed, we have to inspire them and influence them through our own lives and personalities.

It is of utmost importance that in a world beset with so much discrimination, racial and religious bigotry and chauvinism, we are able to rise above these fetters and love and teach all children regardless of their ethnicity, colour or religion as children of God.  Many children in this world are unfed, uncared for, unloved, even abused. Can we as teachers compensate in some small way by giving them our tender, loving care and compassion? This is the ultimate religion of Humankind and you will be fulfilling God’s very purpose of life on earth.  This is the only way to build a united, happy and prosperous Malaysian Malaysia, a 1Malaysia, and indeed a brave new world. Strive to make goodness and righteousness a part of your own lives.  I hope and pray that each and every one of us will be a shining example of all that is noble and beautiful in a human being.

Society may consider teachers as human beings doing a small job.  But small men and women can do a “small” job in a big way.  Let us not devalue our worth by doing less.  Believe firmly in the power of the seemingly powerless.  Be your own guru.

Selamat Hari Guru!



Dedicated to the Malaysian Teacher

Teacher is a beautiful name
Teacher is a lovely name
“Teacher” means a helpful hand
A dear and loving heart
A tender love in which
Everyone has a part
“Teacher” means real helpfulness
And understanding too
A name that just suits
    YOU!

I’m glad to be a teacher

    I would rather be a teacher than a bookkeeper
For he balances accounts, but I help balance lives.

    I would rather be a teacher than a great business executive
For he works with facts and figures and lifeless coins, but I
    work with minds that open and futures that unfold and
        principles that grow.

    I would rather be a teacher than an orator
For an orator stirs an adult to applaud and admiration, but I
        stir little children to right choosing and noble thinking.

    I would rather be a teacher than a musician
For a musician plays on violin strings and piano strings, but I
        play on the heartstrings.

    I would rather be a teacher than a decorator
For he deals with perspective and harmony and line in
        templates not made with hands.

    I would rather be a teacher than a potter
For he shapes vessels of clay, but I shape destinies.

    I would rather be a teacher than an interpreter
For he interprets words and ideas, but I interpret motives and
        purposes and endeavours.

    I would rather be a teacher than an archaeologist
For he unearths buried treasure, but I unearth talent.

    I would rather be a teacher than an explorer
For he explores unchartered seas but, I explore unchartered
        minds and discover treasure islands and continents of
                untold possibilities.

    I would rather be a teacher than a statesman
For he deals with finished citizens but I deal with future citizens.

    I would rather be a teacher than a scientist
     For he studies the wonders of the rocks and beauty of
the stars and the miracles of the plants and the glory of the skies
    I deal with that which is still more miraculous in the
     throbbing human hearts, unfolding human lives and the
        formation of lifetime characters.

Reprinted from October 1958 Journal of True Education

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