World Teachers’ Day 2011 – What Makes a Great Teacher

There are three things I would like to blog about today, as we celebrate World Teachers’ Day.

First, I would like to share part of what I wrote in an essay that accompanied my nomination by the DLSU President to the Metrobank Foundation Search for Outstanding Teachers last year:

I believe that two things characterize a great teacher: (1) knowledge and the capability to enhance and share this knowledge, and (2) love for one’s students. Some teachers begin their vocation with good communication skills and a good grasp of their areas, but with little real concern about their students. Over the years, however, true teachers eventually learn to love every individual who comes under their tutelage. Others begin with a genuine compassion for students, but with so meager an understanding of the true essence of their subject that they could not enable their students to comprehend it. Over the years, however, they become experts in their areas.

I’ve no picture of me and my faithful dog when I was a kid, but this one evokes the same internal response. The dog with the torch is a symbol of St. Dominic himself, though. Well maybe I’m that kind of a dog, too.

I belong to the first group: God has graciously gifted me with an aptitude for Computer Science and a facility for languages and communication. However, I am not, by nature, a selfless person. Having grown up with no playmates except my faithful dog and toys, I was very self-centered. When I began my vocation so many years ago, I didn’t really care about my students as long as I “did my job” of covering the syllabus and explaining things in an awe-inspiring manner. It took a while for me to start realizing that they have spirits as well as bodies, hearts as well as minds, strengths as well as weaknesses, sorrows as well as joys.

My journey towards love for my students started when I began to have a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ in 1995 (in Japan, of all places, while I was studying for my PhD in Computer Science). One cannot have a growing personal relationship with God and not care about people, particularly those entrusted to one’s care. How can one love others unconditionally unless one has experienced, and continues to experience, the agape love of our Father in heaven?

Today, more than a year since I wrote that, I am so strongly aware of how the many responsibilities I have accepted have taken away from me the time I need to really get to know and care for my students. Mea máxima culpa. I will need to further hone my skills in saying “no”.

Next: A short reflection on this blog’s first anniversary.

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