Sustaining passion for teaching

It is said that the first three years of marriage is the most beautiful, after which couples tend to lose their “first love.” Usually, marriages hit a wall after the third year, especially if the first three years were unpleasant. This phenomenon is also seen in workers, who tend to experience burnout after three years of working in a particular profession. Teachers are not exempted from this effect. Most often, teachers who start out with enthusiasm and passion for teaching become disheartened in less than three years.

Loss of passion

A variety of factors account for the decline in level of enthusiasm among teachers. Young teachers start out in the profession wanting to make a difference. They are gung ho about giving the best, diversified instruction, managing students’ behavior in non-threatening manner, using assessment results to improve student achievement, and engaging in life-long learning to improve teaching. These are the ingredients that make up for successful teaching, that directly and positively impact student learning. However, teachers tend to gradually lose their initial beliefs about and passion for the profession as they continue in the school system.

Primary cause

First and foremost, this is due to the fact that schools curb teacher autonomy. Although teachers are considered to be professionals, they are hardly treated like one. Teachers do not have the independence of determining what is educationally sound for their students.

In many countries, the National Curricula are developed by a group of geniuses in complete isolation from the social and emotional realities of how teachers teach and how students learn. Teachers are required to follow and complete the curriculum within a specified time, which further increases stress at work. Instead of providing meaningful contents and skills that are founded upon the needs, strengths and passion of individual students, teachers resentfully disseminate “empty” knowledge that is prescribed by curriculum designers.

Apart from the lack of autonomy in determining the contents taught, teachers are also required to teach using prescribed teaching methods. For example, when the concept of learning styles was popularized, teachers were required to be trained in the use of different teaching strategies to cater to different learning styles of students, only to be told by researchers that measuring and identifying learning styles would be psychometrically flawed. Additionally, psychologists also argue that humans use a variety of modalities to learn and never stick to any one learning style.

The same was seen when the concept, “meta-cognition” was introduced. Lots of money and time were spent in training teachers to teach meta-cognition; however, the term was overused until it became a cliché.

Consequences

Teachers who are stripped off their sense of autonomy to carry out professional tasks through the micromanagement of higher authorities feel “proletarianised”, de-professionalised, de-skilled and sometimes demoralized. As a result, disillusionment sets in; the level of commitment to the profession of teaching deteriorates. This explains why many teachers start off very excited about teaching and become completely disappointed with the profession.

Reviving passion

When people go to a medical doctor, they listen to the doctor’s diagnosis of the illness and accept whatever prescription given. Unfortunately, teachers (who are also professionals in teaching) are not treated this way. Hence, instead of listening, society prescribes to teachers what they need to do. This continues to de-motivate and discourage them.

One of the best ways to keep teachers enthusiastic about teaching is to give them opportunities to be actively involved in school matters. Teachers should be empowered to determine their own (educationally-sound) decisions and actions. They should do so by utilizing their highest creative prowess as educators. In other words, teachers must be allowed to be the professionals they are supposed to be.

“Good teachers are born; great teachers are made; extraordinary teachers are inspired!”

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