The Tao Te Ching, is an ancient Chinese book of wisdom that is pivotal to the philosophy of Taoism. The book has 81 chapters on which another book named The Tao of Teaching by Dr. Greta Nagel, is based.
Some of the ideas in the book may seem familiar and some perhaps clichéd but each successive reading of Dr. Nagel’s book gives teachers (as enlightened and evolved as they may be) a renewed opportunity to reflect, question and refine their own thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and actions regarding teaching. And ponder: Am I wise?
On the eve of Teachers’ Day: excerpts from The Tao of Teaching, with a Quick Question posed by the writer of this article to put it in perspective … for the best of us!
Wise teachers know that they cannot ‘pour it in.’
The stand and deliver process of sharing substance can go only so far. Children are interested learners. They enjoy finding out about new things and they are adept at memorising certain kinds of information – sports statistics, lyrics of popular songs, attributes of special automobiles or details of favorite performer’s lives. When interest is high, the substance, the stuff is easily retained.
Quick question: Ask yourself: Am I doing all the talking?
Wise teachers have authority but do not choose to be authoritarian.
They are respected by their students as fellow learners who work for the betterment of the class. They do not insist that students rely on them but rather they help students to find ways to become self-reliant.
Quick question: Ask yourself: Is this child still majorly depending on me?
Wise teachers give their students the gift of showing that they are loved.
Love does not have to be demonstrated as syrupy affection, nor does a teacher need to become a parent. Find enjoyment in reflection, caring and respect. Developing self-love will make it easier for you to reach out to others.
Quick question: Ask yourself: Did I feel loved? Did I, in turn, reach out?
The wise teacher treats all students as if they were deserving of respect.
Faith does not survive where there is criticism, suspicion or fear. Students’ treatment of their teacher can be respectful and gratifying in return. Have faith in your students’ responsibility for learning. It will allow them to fulfill your expectations.
Quick question: Ask yourself: Did I see all my students sensing comfort in my presence?
The wise teacher doesn’t hire an orchestra when a guitar will do it.
Expending effort in a multitude of arenas means that energy and time can be lost to the development process. Wise teachers select natural pastimes that will complement interests and projects related to teaching. Find pastimes that can enhance your personal satisfaction with teaching.
Quick question: Ask yourself: Is my ‘time-off’ during holidays and weekends overly distracting to me or is it a means of relaxation and rejuvenating.
The wise teacher uses discretion, represents stability, demonstrates endurance and maintains flexibility.
Demonstrating through example is possible only if the modeling is clear. The teacher who could expect certain behaviours of her/his students, can expect cooperation if those behaviours are important enough for the teacher to him/herself meet.
Quick question: Ask yourself: Is it of core importance to my beliefs and ideals that I want my students to do this in this way.
Wise teachers learn not be judgemental.
They do not respond to their students by telling them they are wrong. They do not put down students, no matter who they are. Instead they use words that can accept students’ misguided ideas or inappropriate answers and ask for the thinking behind them.
Quick question: Ask yourself: As I reflect on my day can I see and realise I may have used a style of body-speak or oral speak that perhaps was abrasive?
Wise teachers do not give up.
They recognise that sometimes students may appear to be making little progress but they do not give up for methods that have the appearance of quick learning. Do not be fooled into thinking that rote learning and the rewards of temporary high test score will make for lifelong retention and caring.
Quick question: Ask yourself: Am I getting to the bottom of this and making it beautiful for my children?
Wise teachers develop insight.
They know that they do not have to go far to learn wisdom and they know how to stay close to situations in order to clarify what’s going on. Refection does not require that you go any farther than your door. Learn to spend time thinking instead of ‘running around’.
Quick question: Ask yourself: Did I open up my mind and attitude to and learn and grow today?
Follow the Tao way of teaching this Teachers Day and you will see yourself turning to its principles more and more; there will be many lessons for you as well to revise, correct, work harder on and finally get high scores on. Who said it is students who need to do all the learning? Work on your Tao and ace it.
Sarita Mathur is a free-lance education consultant offering services to schools, both rural and urban, in India and abroad.
An alumnus of St. Stephen’s College, Sarita has a degree in Mathematics, Education and a post-graduate degree in Operations Research. The Mathematics background and her well-honed sense of systems and processes had her institutionalise several long lasting and important changes as Principal of The Shri Ram School placing it firmly on the map as a progressive and leading school of India. Sarita has served as a consultant on the International curriculum of the CBSE and also serves as advisor/consultant to several curriculum companies, schools and start-up ventures.