The Noble Role of Teachers:

Transforming Ourselves to Change the World


“Education worthy of the name is essentially education of character.”
— Martin Buber (1878 – 1965)

“I would also challenge the argument that as teachers we must remain impartial on moral issues. To feign impartiality is to model more apathy to our students and I believe this to be a mistake. Of course, we must not be bigoted, but provided our argument is based upon sound reasoning, we should show our students that part of the life of a responsible adult is to hold reasoned opinions about issues of moral weight.”
— Ian Morris (2009), Teaching Happiness and Well-Being in Schools.

The aim of this Study Session is to increase our feeling of self-confidence in being a teacher. Then we can boldly affirm that there needs to be a much higher priority given to the development of good character in our students than to their academic prowess; and we can speak and write with calm assurance that teachers are members of the most noble of all professions.

The self-confidence intended here is not so much confidence in our talents, personality or drive but rather a deep sense of courage and faith in our higher Self, that which is arranging for this body to breathe by itself without any conscious intent. It is the due recognition given to that universal energy impelling every thought, word, action, feeling and flash of understanding, when we are teaching. It is the confidence that the flute has in its player, knowing that it can do nothing by itself; and it is the quiet yet bold assurance of the little mountain stream, knowing that one day it will merge with the waters of a vast, limitless ocean.

It is the awakening of such a confidence that will allow us to recognise and embrace the unassailable fact that the profession of teaching is indeed the most important, the most noble of all professions. The philosophy of Human Values Education is that such a high level of self-confidence already lies within each one of us, like the sun behind the clouds, or fire within the unburnt log of wood.

Among the many pathways that can be followed to awaken such a well-grounded feeling of self-assurance is that of affirmations. Neuroscience tells us that each time we affirm something that we intuitively know to be real and true – and not just some egoistic wishful thinking – specific sets of neuronal networks in the brain are reinforced and expanded. This ensures that our automatic way of thinking will guide us always to that inner treasure-house of unshakeable self-confidence.

The Exercise

The exercise requires you to create a series of short affirmations, beginning with the words ‘I am’.

The Exercise – Step 1

Briefly glance through the material you were using in Study Session 1, creating some affirming sentences beginning with ‘I am’. They can be derived from or prompted by what you are reading (including your essay if you have completed one), or from any other source that might appeal to you. You might end up with 5 to 10 affirmations. Two possible examples could be:

  • I am aware that, as a teacher, I am shaping the future of our society.
  • I am a teacher, a guide, a manager, a mentor and a parent to all of the children in my care.

If you are not practising as a teacher but are preparing yourself as an ‘education reformer’, the above affirmations could read instead:

  • I am aware that, as an education reformer, I am shaping the future of our society.
  • I am an education reformer and, as with all teachers, I am a guide, a manager, a mentor and a parent to all of the children who come into my sphere.
The Exercise – Step 2

When you have satisfied your creative urge, give each ‘I am’ affirmation a rating of 1 to 9, according to how much it resonates with your deepest aspirations.

The Exercise – Step 3

Select the two or three ‘I am’ sentences with the highest ratings, and record them in your Journal.

    The Exercise – Step 4

    You might like to make a small attractive poster for each one of the chosen ‘ I am’ affirmations.

    The Exercise – Step 5

    According to your inclinations, repeat each ‘ I am’ affirmation a few times every day until they are part of your automatic way of thinking and feeling.

    The Exercise – Step 6

    Note down any new ‘I am’ affirmations if they occur to you.

    The Exercise – Step 7

    After using the ‘I am’ affirmations for a few days, take note of any changes that you experience within yourself, and also in the demeanour and behaviour of your students or the children within your sphere. Record these observations in your Journal.

    “Everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.”
    ~ Sidney Hook (1902 – 1989)


    “Do not condemn yourselves as petty peddlers of knowledge. You are the makers of the future of mankind…The value of the teaching process lies in raising the consciousness of the learner, in heightening the sense of wonder and awe, and in emphasizing the unity of one with all. The destiny of the country is decided by the ideals implanted by the teachers in the minds of the boys and girls entrusted to their care.”
    ~ Sathya Sai Baba (1926 – 2011)