Only a few things in my life are certain: people who consume maas (sour milk) with sugar are not to be trusted; family supersedes everything but the almighty; and teachers are underrated superheroes.
The last statement could easily be considered biased, especially since it has been written from the perspective of an individual whose paternal and maternal family, combined, mainly consists of professional teachers. However, in the grand scheme of things, teachers are an essential part of society. Sadly, their contributions are seldom appreciated.
It is unequivocal that a large portion of what we have come to know in life has been imparted to us by educators. From our grasp of the alphabet to our comprehension of grammar and punctuation to even the knowledge we confidently carry into our fields of work.
In addition to their classroom duties, teachers also assume the roles of parents and psychologists, ensuring that the dire affairs of their learners’ homes have little or no effect on their performance in class. A particular incident comes to mind at the mention of this topic. I was in grade five in the middle of the year when my mathematics marks had suddenly dropped. Mrs Muller, who taught us mathematics and history, after noticing the decline, called me to the side one day to ask if everything was okay at home. When I had assured her that I was more than fine on the home front (which I honestly was), she told me how worried she was about my performance. From that day onwards, I no longer felt like just a number in the crowd. I felt seen, loved and cared for. I was left with no other choice but to pull my socks up by focusing more on my studies than I was on watching television.
With patience and love, educators also employ various teaching methods so as to make sure that none of their learners or students is left behind in the syllabus. How these individuals manage to juggle all these tasks is a mystery and a marvel altogether.
Perhaps it is the love they have for their profession. For as long as I can remember, my paternal aunt, who retired from service in February 2021, has considered herself a first-class citizen simply because of her ability to groom the world’s change agents. “I am a teacher, the best profession in the world!” she always reminds the family.
Maybe it is their love for enriching young minds. I have watched, with great admiration, as my other paternal aunt worked tirelessly in order to see her college students succeed. She sometimes sacrifices her weekends just so more and more households can be impacted through the education of their family members.
It could also be their love for a specific area of learning. For my late father, teaching English was a true calling, one which often transcended the borders of the school premises. Even when he wasn’t aware of it, he was imparting knowledge to those around him through his broad vocabulary. One of the classic family jokes is that of how my siblings and I were introduced to the word “apply”. At the event of one of us misbehaving, my dad would ask “Uya-apply-a? U-apply-ela isibhaxu?”. This, if translated to English, was a way of enquiring if you were “applying to get a hiding”. What’s humourous is that when the infamous question was first posed to us, our response was the same: a blank stare at first, followed by a slow nod before quickly shaking one’s head upon reading our father’s body language.
Teachers are certainly cut from a different cloth. In honour of International Teachers Day, I would like to extend my gratitude to every teacher in the world. The vital role you play in our society does not go unnoticed.
- Naledi Hlefane
Communications and Marketing Division