Article first appeared in the Portugal Resident.
As the head of an international school, I am asked constantly what makes a school, or indeed our school, unique – I always answer in the same honest way. It is the quality of our teachers, their dedication to their students and the teaching and learning process. This is something that I strongly believe in. No matter where you went to school, the language that you were taught in or the education system that you experienced, I know that everyone remembers their devoted teachers, whose influence, lessons and teachings still influence their lives today.
Personally, from a very young age, I lined up all of my toys, as well as my baby sister, in order to teach the alphabet and, yes, she learnt to read by the age of two! I always knew that teaching was to be my vocation, and that I would become a teacher to children of all ages.
In the 21st century, teaching is not a straightforward role to take on. Certainly, in the past year, the role of a teacher has changed dramatically. We have engaged in our students’ lives in unprecedented ways through online teaching, providing round-the-clock support for our students and parents alike, and been at the forefront of frustrations caused by the pandemic.
Outstanding teachers are now needed more than ever before. The world faces an uncertain future in terms of the pandemic, global warming and social and political unrest. As a consequence, never before have both parents and children alike relied on the inspiration and dedication of highly educated teachers to help guide the world through the next generation and beyond.
Teachers are responsible for so much more than just academic success. An outstanding teacher becomes a role model for their students, connecting with them both inside and outside the classroom and on multiple levels. Teachers act as role models by facilitating important life lessons and, thereby, ensuring success in all aspects of a student’s life.
An inspirational teacher enlightens their students on the power and importance of education, both through memorable lessons and their ability to engage their students in active learning. Encouraging the desire to want to discover more is absolutely key.
This can be achieved when an inspired Early Years Educator unlocks the magic of reading by dressing up as the tiger and bringing the character to life when reading The Tiger Who Came to Tea, or a Lower Secondary Science teacher, who transformed her Year 9 students into cardboard airplanes in order to experience the concept of air resistance for themselves. Just two simple examples of inspiring students in their learning process, and nurturing the desire to achieve greater knowledge and understanding!
In an everchanging world, students of all ages look to their teachers for guidance. Outstanding teachers listen, empathise and enable their students to investigate a range of options objectively. This can be vital as children reach their teenage years, when the world becomes a complex place to understand, and many life decisions and important academic choices have to be taken.
Inspirational teachers show their students what can be achieved and provide the tools and guidance for this to take place. A good teacher will encourage students to take risks, help overcome self-defeating behaviour, speak up in class, and even write a letter to the government.
Inspiring a thirst for education, being a role model and having the ability to offer sound informed guidance are not the skills of a superhero, just those of outstanding teachers that we need more today than ever before. These are the attributes of the adults who will help parents and families guide and influence the next generation and, inevitably, the shape of the world to come.
Personally, I value each and every educator who has these skills and look for them in every new candidate. As a parent, I always knew that a school which valued outstanding teachers was where I wanted my child to be educated.