The Noble Role of Teachers:

Transforming Ourselves to Change the World

Study Session 4 – Teachers as Sacred Activists for a Better World

“The purpose of education is to foster the sense of oneness, the flowering of personality, drawing out divine qualities in man, and making him shine forth as a better human being.

…..every student, after completing his studies, should dedicate himself or herself to serving society. For this service, one should acquire all the necessary knowledge.”

— Sathya Sai Baba (1926 – 2011)

“If a physician prescribes the wrong treatment, he can kill the patient. Mistaken education can be equally deadly. While the results may not be as immediately apparent as the effects of the mistaken treatment of a medical condition, the negative impact will become undeniable with the passage of decades.”

— Daisuku Ikedo (2000)
The Dawn of a Century of Humanistic Education

For a better world, for a society that truly cares for the young, the elderly, the poor and the sick, and to have governing bodies who will legislate to respect Mother Earth and her progeny, a radical system of holistic education giving greater priority to compassion than to comparison and competition will be required. If we are to have a new generation of citizens imbued with enough love, goodness and wisdom to be workers, catalysts and leaders for a saner world, we will need teachers who can inspire the young ones in their care to have faith in themselves and their essential goodness.

Many of us have known intuitively that we are all born with pure minds and open hearts. As young children, it was no effort to listen to and follow the inner promptings of our innate goodness, God or Buddhahood. This Truth appears to be so obvious in the toddler and newborn child who can attract a small crowd of admirers without saying a word, more than any adult we know. Teachers who choose to believe that every child, of of whatever age, is a young sage yearning to stay true to its original goodness are the ones who can shape the destiny of the nation towards compassionate, responsible, selfless citizenship.

Such educators of our young can be recognised for what they truly are: sacred activists for a new world – ‘sacred’ because their work entails the refinement of character, first their own and then their students; and ‘activists’ because their very presence in the education system will inspire their colleagues to emulate them in teaching for a higher purpose than the mere transferring of information from one brain to another.

As you will have seen in the previous Study Session 3, Human Values Education is proposing that the seven letters in the word TEACHER represent the qualities and skills required by those teachers who would embrace this role of the sacred activist, those who can be midwives to the birth of a new era of responsible stewardship, both for humanity and the planet. To recapitulate, the acronym TEACHER spells out as:

T : Transformation, not information
E : Exemplar
A : Awareness of Oneness
C : Culture
H : Head, Heart and Hand, in unity
E : Environment
R : Role of Religion

You can refresh your memory of the brief explanation for each of the components of TEACHER by referring to Handbook for Teachers in Human Values Education, pages 199 to 212.

The two exercises to follow will provide opportunities for you to discover some of the vast amount of quality literature and research available in the field of character education, particularly in relation to the acronym TEACHER.

Exercise 1 – The qualities and skills of a teacher in Human Values Education

The aim of this exercise is to deepen your understanding around each one of the components of TEACHER.

Exercise 1 – Step 1

Using internet search and whatever books are available to you, find and extract material that relates to each one of the components of the acronym TEACHER.

For example, you might like to begin your internet search using the following key words:
T :
a) Transformation, not information, in values education
OR
b) Human Values Education is transformation and not just information
E :
a) Human Values Education requires the teacher to be the exemplar of the human values
OR
b) Teacher as the exemplar of good character in values education
A:
a) Teachers with an awareness of oneness in values education
OR
b) Oneness of humanity in Human Values Education
C:
a) Culture in Human Values Education
OR
b) Culture is refinement of character in values education
H:
a) Head, Heart and Hand Education: Education in the spirit of Pestalozzi
OR
b) Harmony of Head, Heart and Hand in values education
E:
a) Values education and the environment
OR
b) Indigenous environmental values as human values
R:
a) Role of religion in Human Values Education
OR
b) Values education and the role of religion

Exercise 1 – Step 2

Using the material that you have selected from your internet searches relating to the seven components of TEACHER, write a short essay (300 to 600 words) about how this acronym can provide useful guidelines for enhancing character education or values education.

Exercise 1 – Step 3

Record the essay in your Journal

Exercise 2 – Quotations on teachers as change-agents for a better world

Referring to the material that you collected for Exercise 1 in this Study Session, and exploring a little further using the internet and books, note down any words that you and others might like to read again on later occasions – ones that both inform and inspire.

By way of illustration of what we mean, you will enjoy reading these few words penned by the well-known ecologist, David Suzuki, that pertain to the Environment component of TEACHER.

Exercise 2 – Step 1

Referring to the material that you collected for Exercise 1 in this Study Session, and exploring a little further using the internet and books, note down any words that you and others might like to read again on later occasions – ones that both inform and inspire.

By way of illustration of what we mean, you will enjoy reading these few words penned by the well-known ecologist, David Suzuki, that pertain to the Environment component of TEACHER.

“The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it. If a mountain is a deity, not a pile of ore; if a river is one of the veins of the land, not potential irrigation water; if a forest is a sacred grove, not timber; if other species are biological kin, not resources; or if the planet is our mother, not an opportunity – then we will treat each other with greater respect. Thus is the challenge, to look at the world from a different perspective.”

— David Suzuki (1936 – )
Quoted in www.earthstories.com

One more quotation – this one illustrating the Transformation component of TEACHER – will also assist you in getting a sense of what this Exercise is about. It comes from Richard Pring, a noted UK educationist and philosopher.

“The Principal of an American High School sent the following letter to the new teachers joining the school:

I am the survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness:

Gas chambers built by learned engineers.
Children poisoned by educated physicians.
Infants killed by trained nurses.
Women and children shot and burned by high school and
college graduates.

So, I am suspicious of education.
My request is: Help your students to become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmans.

Reading, writing, arithmetic (one might add ‘getting your leaving certificate’) are important but only if they serve to make our children more human.”

— Richard Pring (2013)
What is an educated person?
Address to the Education Forum, NUI Maynooth, UK.

Exercise 2 – Step 2

Once you have selected two, three or more passages that help define the attributes and attitudes of a teacher practising the component parts of the acronym TEACHER, choose your favourite quote for each part and record these seven in your Journal.

For example:

  • T: Transformation, not information

  Be the change that you want to see in the world – Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

  • E: Exemplar

  One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is much necessary     raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.  Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961)

And so on. That is, select one preferred quotation or aphorism for each of the seven letters in TEACHER, and record these in your Journal.

Exercise 2 – Step 3

Of the seven quotations recorded in your Journal, choose one that you would like to:

  • Make into a poster for your home or office space, or
  • Propagate on social media (e.g. Facebook), or
  • Pass on to teachers at your local school or to work colleagues, or
  • Write a short essay commenting or elaborating on this one outstanding quotation, and enter that in your Journal.

“We need to start standing up for teaching as a profession. If you are a teacher, you ought to say with vigour that you teach and you are proud of it. There isn’t any more powerful profession than teaching. Every day you change children’s minds and help create our future.”

— Rita Pearson (1951 – 2013)

“The teacher has the greatest share in moulding the future of the country. Of all professions, his/hers is the noblest, the most difficult, the most important. He has to cultivate in himself humility, compassion, and the spirit of loving service, much more than those belonging to other professions, for he is an ideal and example to his pupils. If a pupil has a vice, he alone suffers from it. But, if a teacher has a vice, thousands are polluted. The teacher is a beacon that has to guide and lead. If he fails to illumine, many will be wrecked on the rocks.”

— Sathya Sai Baba (1926 – 2011)

END OF STUDY SESSION 4