The Noble Role of Teachers:

Transforming Ourselves to Change the World

Study Session 1 – Recognising the Nobility of the Teaching Profession

“Teachers reveal the direction and the goal. Students lay the road and the journey into the future. The skills and strengths, the status and stature of mankind are shaped and furthered in proportion to the quality and character of its teachers. Teachers must dedicate their learning and wisdom to the great task of uplifting pupils to higher levels of knowledge and action. The virtues, which they help to inculcate in their pupils, are essential for the upliftment of society also. When virtues are rooted in the heart, man shines in full glory. A life without good character is a shrine without a light, a coin that is counterfeit, and a kite with the string broken.”

— Sathya Sai Baba (1926 – 2011)

The aim of this Study Session is to expand our understanding and appreciation of the assertion that ‘Teaching is the most noble of all professions’.

We might wonder how the profession of teaching can be more honourable and worthy than practising medicine or law, or being an engineer, biologist, electrician or neuroscientist. From the standpoint of Human Values Education, it is the teacher of children who is given an opportunity, more than any other, to reach into and touch the deepest levels of the heart and mind of the young child and teenager. In doing so, they can awaken in these future adult members of our society the urge and commitment to not only become the very best they can be, but also to act always in the interests of the common good, rather than thinking mostly of their own welfare and those closest to them.

This is not to decry the invaluable role that parents will always play in moulding the character of their children and, in so doing, shape the destiny of the nation as their young ones mature and take on their predestined roles in society. However, given the rising incidence of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, drug and alcohol problems, along with family breakdown and the ready access to an amoral internet, it would not be prudent to assume that most children will grow up to play a uniting and supporting role in their community, or that they will become ideal parents and role models for their own children yet to be born.

All teachers that we have ever met affirm that they entered into their profession with a desire to assist their students in realising their potential. In many cases, their role is that of the alternative mother and father, adults who can nurture and heal as well as teach; and even assuaging the anxieties of troubled parents when they blame the teacher for the behaviour of their child.

So it is to the teachers that we turn, recognising that the roles they play can influence the destiny of our society either towards a self-oriented, competitive milieu or one that is compassionate, cohesive and mutually-supporting of all its members.

The Exercise – Step 1

As you follow the Steps below, we trust that you will develop further your own manner of recognising and championing the noble role of teachers.

Read and reflect upon the five quotations on this topic that are shown below:

“Teachers are, I believe, the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth.”

— Helen Caldicott (2002)
Loving this Planet

“Throughout history teachers have played a role more profound and subtle than that of instruction. Bringing to their vocation a passion for ideas and values together with a love of children and an understanding of the process by which you plant the seeds of motivation, the profession has inspired millions of people to become everything from community activists to loving parents, from distinguished professionals to valued leaders in every aspect of a society’s life. It is imperative that we never lose sight of the teacher in this personal, interfacing sense as the critical instrument in the educational process.”

— Michael Manley (1996)
Education, Empowerment and Social Healing

“…we teach who we are. Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul. If I am willing to look in that mirror, and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge – and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject.”

— Parker J. Palmer (1997)
The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s life

“The teacher is not merely one who deals with students’ intellectual capacities but one who relates to the whole person and the whole person’s needs and development.”

— Terence Lovat ( 2005)
Values Education and Teachers’ Work: A Quality Teaching Perspective

“Students are like the stone out of which the sculptor chisels the figures he wants. It is the sculptor who produces a thing of beauty out of a piece of rough rock. Parents and teachers are the sculptors who have to mould the shape and figure of the students for whom they are responsible. If parents and teachers set the right example, the students will automatically blossom into models of excellence and bring glory to the nation.”

— Sathya Sai Baba (1926 – 2011)

The Exercise – Step 2

In Handbook for Teachers in Human Values Education, read and reflect upon the words in Afterword: A Teacher’s Journey, on pages 261 and 262

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The Exercise – Step 3

The Exercise – Step 4

Extract those passages that resonate with you in the above five quotations and five essays and write a short (300 to 600 words) essay on the topic: ‘Teaching is the most noble of all professions’.

The Exercise – Step 5

Edit and improve upon your essay until it is of the highest quality, perhaps also giving it to someone to proof-read and edit.

The Exercise – Step 6

Record your essay in your Journal, along with any other quotations, phrases or sentences that you’d like to return to again, for reflection and contemplation.

END OF STUDY SESSION 1

“At the heart of Human Values Education is the conviction that, above all else, teachers who are willing for the sake of the children to commit themselves to an ongoing self-transformation into humble and inspiring role-models of good character, will be the essential catalysts for the change that is required for civilization to turn away from its present hazardous trajectory, towards a new world where compassion, harmony, common sense and care for the environment prevail.”

— Ron and Suwanti Farmer (2015)
Handbook for Teachers in Human Values Education

END OF STUDY SESSION 1