How does ‘authenticity’ manifest itself?
I’ve been fortunate to receive wholehearted care from a number of great teachers in my life. I think their authenticity can be summed up in these main ways:
- They don’t just teach their subject: My best teachers tried to help me out with problems I was having in life, not just in my studies. When I broke up with my girlfriend, my Biology teacher gave me some great advice and told me not to let it bother me. “It’s her loss”, he said. When I came to school looking exhausted because I’d had no sleep the night before, a number of teachers expressed concern for me and asked how I was and recommended that I get some sleep. When I was pelted with snowballs and came into my Head of Year’s office crying, he put his hands on my ears to warm them up and helped me to calm down.
- They take their duty as ‘role models’ seriously: “There’s no such thing as an off-duty teacher” – words spoken to me when I was an NQT. I think those words are true. I never saw any of my teachers drunk or smoking, and even on my graduation evening when some teachers came out for a drink at a local restaurant with the students, they acted responsibly.
- They remember you after you leave: At high school reunions and when bumping into each other in the street, authentic teachers and former students talk with each other like it was yesterday. “How are you getting along, Richard”. “I’m doing fine”, I said. “I always knew you would be a success, you were always a very dedicated student”, my old physics teacher responded in 2006. That felt great. It was a reminder of who I was at my core, and a motivator to keep me on track for the future.
- They leave no student behind: I was in Year 10 when me and my classmates took a ‘formulae of ions’ test in Chemistry. About half of the class, including me, failed the test. To this day I still don’t know why that happened, but my Chemistry teacher just couldn’t let it go. She pulled aside all of us as a group, had a talk with us and made us re-sit the test the following week. On the second attempt, we all got above 80% (and it was an equally difficult test). Afterwards, she said, “Can you now see that the concept was really simple”. We all agreed.
- They give up some of their free time: I already know that this is not going to be a popular one with some of my readers, but it is true. Authentic teachers care so much about their students that they are happy to run classes or tutoring after school or at break and lunchtimes to help students out. They know that this dedication will pay dividends in terms of the rapport they are building and the results the students will get in the final exams. These payoffs are more valuable to them than their free time, which is very admirable.
What are the effects of ‘authenticity’?
Authentic teachers literally change their students’ lives. They realise that their influence doesn’t just last a day or an academic year. They know that they are part of a mission to mould their learners into happy, responsible, good adults of the future.
There’s a saying that was used in a Teacher recruitment campaign in the UK in the early 2000s – No One Forgets a Good Teacher.
I would say that no one forgets an authentic teacher, because only authentic teachers can be good teachers.
This article originally appeared at: https://richardjamesrogers.com/2018/03/18/what-is-an-authentic-teacher/
Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati