Reflecting on inspiration

Issue: Volume 93, Number 19

Posted: 28 October 2014
Reference #: 1H9csU

World Teachers’ Day acknowledged the profession as a whole on 5 October this year, recognising the important role of teachers in any child’s education, and the crucial contribution they can play in children becoming the very best people they can. New Zealand Teachers’ Day, celebrated on 29 October, seeks to focus on what makes Kiwi teachers such great inspirers of young hearts and minds.

World Teachers’ Day, now in its twentieth year, came about as a celebration of the signing in 1994 of a recommendation from the United Nations Education and Culture Organisation’s (UNESCO): to recognise the status of teachers as a central pillar in our society, crucial in the continued advancement of our economies, and more importantly, crucial in the development of successive generations of young people who can go on to contribute their talent, enthusiasm, and concern for the creation of a better world.

World Teachers’ Day and New Zealand Teachers’ Day reinforce the notion that teachers are an investment in the future of nations. Teachers are tasked with preparing young people for employment and life situations and equipping them with the tools to deal with the world beyond school. In developed nations, we sometimes take education for granted. However, according to the UNESCO website, the world still needs 1.4 million teachers, and 250 million children won’t even receive the most basic education or be able to read or write.

Thankfully, in New Zealand, we have a world-class education system and world-class teachers, giving us all much to celebrate on New Zealand Teachers’ Day.

Inspirational teachers

Many of us probably don’t have to think too hard to remember a teacher who sticks in our memories as someone who made a difference and opened our eyes to a love of learning and life. Some, who now see their name in lights, acknowledge that their success wouldn’t quite be the same without an inspiring educator.

The website inspiredbyU(external link) was developed earlier this year so we can all celebrate the teachers who helped us on our journey.

A report that summarised the first 345 postcards posted on the site identified two aspects of quality teaching that stood out as important to students.

The first was a teacher’s ability to encourage students to work within a caring, inclusive, and cohesive learning environment. Consistently, “students” talked about the different ways in which their teachers had motivated and encouraged them to aspire above and beyond – often where other teachers had not. Teachers were thanked by students for showing them “the potential I never thought I had”; for having a “genuine concern for me as a person”; “having faith where others didn’t”; “working tirelessly for us”; and believing “I was worth spending time with.”

“Let’s be honest,” said one former student, “I was a very challenging student … but you saw through that and took time to get to know me.” Students were grateful that their teacher “respected them” and that “they had high expectations of everyone.”

The second aspect of quality teaching to stand out in the report was a teacher’s ability to be responsive to what and how their student needed to learn. This was mainly associated with particular subjects both within and outside the curriculum. Students noted their inspiring teacher’s passion – some would same “insanely passionate”.

The traits emphasised were teachers’ humanity, perseverance, energy, creativity, and deep knowledge of the subject content. Teachers “encouraged us to dream, create, imagine” and one teacher was thanked for her “willingness to actively involve us in the teaching process”.

Students also talked about how their teacher managed the classroom in ways that allowed them and their peers to learn effectively. Humour was often cited as constructive in classroom management and teachers were also thanked for being “strict but fair”, “fun and engaging”.

What teachers do both in and out of class can be life-changing. For many of the former students thanking their teachers on this site, it has been just that. Students appreciated gaining strategies in the classroom that would equip them for life. Teachers helped them to develop critical thinking and enquiring frames of mind. This was credited for getting them to where they are today in their career and life.

This website leaves you in no doubt about the very positive differences that teachers can make for their students – we encourage you to have a look.

Many inspirational Kiwis have left messages of appreciation for the educational superstars who helped kick start their own path to glory. Education Gazette would like to share a few of these acknowledgements.

Oscar Kightley

“Thanks so much for inspiring me with your kindness, understanding, and for somehow seeing something in me. I will never forget you!”

John Tamihere

“Mr Weal brought education to life and gave me a strong interest in what I call the Kiwi-isation of our society. Everything he taught he applied to the modern New Zealand situation – he made learning real so you could understand and identify with it. He would skip his own lunch hour to give support and assistance to those that needed and was very generous in giving his time.”

Sir Peter Leitch

“Thanks for teaching outside the square – you gave me HOPE! It gave me the confidence to believe in myself, to go out into the workforce and have a go. Because of that, I found the will to fight against the odds and created the Mad Butcher – so thank you for having faith in me.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 7:51 pm, 28 October 2014

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