The Importance Of Teachers

There is a difference between knowledge, understanding, experiencing, realizing on the one hand and skill on the other. Knowledge needs to be understood and experienced – realized. Skill needs to be learnt – by doing. Skill falls in the realm of ‘doing’, while knowledge is in the realm of ‘being’. One is tangible, the other is not. This distinction is of utmost importance.

Training is to do with skill. Reading and writing is a skill. One can be ‘trained’ to read and write without understanding a word! But this ability or skill is of no use except to impress the other. If we do not understand the meaning that is indicated by the word (in any language) communication is not possible. Understanding does not lie in the domain of doing or skill. And communication is the primary objective of any language. This brings us to the most important distinction between WORD and MEANING. Word is sensorial (we can hear it and even see it if written down) but meaning has to be understood, experienced. Meaning is extra-sensorial. The two – word and meaning – are like two sides of the same coin. But word is sensorial and bound by the language to which the word belongs, while meanings transcend the boundaries of the language. That is why translation is possible.

Teachers are the most important element in the domain of “education”. Students are also important of course, but parents, infrastructure, methodology, pedagogy, environment of the institution, the system in which the institution is forced to operate, the syllabus and curriculum, the text books and other material – all of these fade in comparison to the importance of teachers in the vast domain of education. Unfortunately neither the teacher nor the institution is fully aware of the importance of teachers. And it is in the character of modern institutions to treat the teacher as an instrument or as an employee (to be hired) for a particular task (“doing”). And even the teacher treats himself/herself in the same manner. And in the employee-employer relationship based on monetary terms it is but natural that the value of “commitment” will take a back seat. No one knows how long the teacher is going to work for. No one can be blamed for this situation – the virus is in the air; that is how the system works. And we are almost unconsciously conditioned into perceiving education and teacher in this particular manner. In this context it is quite natural to focus on skill development, something which is doable and measurable. This is the strength of the materialistic paradigm in which we are living. If we are working in the domain of education we need to ask the question of ourselves why we are doing what we are doing. Are we here to train children to become a commodity in the job market or are we doing something different. If so what is it?

Many of us feel convinced that education is or rather must be largely to do with character building, enhancing the capacity to gain knowledge, to have the intelligence to discriminate, to develop sensitivity, to feel for the other (call it compassion if you like), to discern nuances and ultimately give sahajata (being comfortable within and without) and confidence to the student, a confidence which is not based on comparison. We can use different set of words but the idea is that education is far more than just skill. Skill training is like a subset, a tool but it is certainly not of primary importance. And we are not talking here in “either/or” terms. It is not knowledge, values etc vs. skill kind of an argument. We are talking of importance and priority here.

Therefore the word “training” in relation to enhancement of the ability and capacity of teachers must be re-examined. The teachers need to be engaged in a manner (perhaps a dialogue as different from a discussion or debate) that they start paying attention to themselves, their inner being, see the similarity in the being-ness between human beings, see the elements where we as human beings are different from each other and elements which are similar. We are unique and similar at the same time. Ultimately teaching is not even perceived as a job but a choice-less action – can that be the aim of those engaging with teachers? In present times teaching is perhaps the only area which gives us the opportunity and the luxury to make a difference. Does the teacher realize this? If not can we do something about it? A question we need to ask of ourselves.

Poornima Shukla Paksh, Margashirsha 2079 (8th December 2022)
Pawan Kumar Gupta, SIDH, Mussoorie

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