Teachers as Influencers – Makers and Breakers of the Education Experience
When one thinks about influencers in this day and age, the first thing that probably comes to mind is social media and the large number of personalities paid by brands to influence the lifestyle choices of their audience. Seldom do we associate influence with its meaning before the social media age. That meaning is the power to have an impact on people or things or to effect on someone in an indirect but usually important change.
We spend a big amount of our time in the education system. As a result, the primary and secondary education process lasts about 12 years of our lives. We go on to spend, voluntarily, even more time pursuing numerous qualifications later on. In the context of time spent, we probably spend more time with our teachers than we do with anyone else in the world during this time. Similarly to the influence our parents and peers have on us, teachers hold the key to the development of our knowledge and social norms.
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Role playing that shapes a negative and positive impact
Teachers have a very important role to play in the development of a child, shaping their social, emotional, psychological and intellectual qualities. This can happen in two extremes. One is a positive impact that transforms the learner and equips them to face some of life’s teachable moments. The second is a negative impact, that can disable a learners perspective about education and leave them disengaged from the learning process. However, education is not a one way road and this is not to suggest that the responsibility for this influence lies on teachers alone.
There are many stories to be told about the relationship between students and teachers. One is one of a student whose relationship with mathematics was greatly influenced by her math teacher of four years. The teacher was a fraud who did not use classroom time for teaching. Students had to pay an undisclosed amount of money for test and exam solutions under the disguise of extra-curricular classes. As a result, she never developed an aptitude for mathematics and had negative associations with numbers.
Another story is one of an author whose love for literature was inspired by primary school teachers. In a time where speaking English was not the norm, her teachers encouraged reading in class and at home. Therefore students could speak English in the classroom environment so they can practice to articulate themselves and be confident. Both these students have experiences they will never forget with their teachers. But both experiences made and broke their education journey.
A calling to be lifelong influencers
Teachers have a great job in their hands. It is not easy to consistently positively influence each student’s life as they go through their studies. Some students are easy to influence and some are impossible as they could be going through difficult phases in their lives. But the work of a teacher is clear. It is to prepare and deliver the education of students at different levels of their study. It is also to manage and administrate educational activities. Outside of that scope, their work is also to mentor, care, inspire and advocate for the students. As a result, teaching is not just a career for anyone. There has to be a desire from the teacher to want to make a difference in student’s lives. They have to know that learning is a life long journey.
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