Teaching: not a science but a vocation
Gabriela Mistral said, if you can’t love, don’t teach. An example of a teacher who demonstrated this love is Palestinian Hanan Al Hroub. She was selected out of 8,000 candidates to receive the 2016 Global Teacher Prize. Hroub’s mission as an educator of children living in the midst of endemic violence is, day in and day out, to build an environment of peace, harmony, and security within those tiny walls of her classroom by means of the methodology of learning through play.Let’s stop for a moment to think about the social structure in our country, El Salvador, remember all of the headlines in newspapers and news broadcasts, as well as the things we see in our community, and we will come to observe that it’s not so different from the situation in Palestine. There violence is the daily bread which has become normal and routine. But, what is it that keeps us strong in the face of social adversity that educators encounter? A vocation.
Vocation is defined by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language as, “an inclination to a state, a profession or career,” but I would define it also as “the passion to help children and families with a sense of service, dedication, and commitment.” In this way we establish that for some teaching is a vocation and for others it is simply a job that pays, or simply a profession. But if we have true vocation we receive both benefits – economic compensation for what we truly enjoy doing, which is teaching.
Now, it doesn’t hurt to clarify that to be able to do the job it’s necessary for teachers to be well trained. However this doesn’t mean being simply an “encyclopedia” but rather full of passion, with emotional investment for the practice, being able to dedicate oneself. Academic formation may seem to be enough to be a teacher but the reality comes forth when we see how the lack of vocation inevitable leads to negative results.
There are several characteristics that a dedicated early childhood education teacher should have, here are a few of them:
In the first place I want to highlight that a teacher with vocation is both committed to what they do and conscious of the work that they have in their hands. These teachers have the ability to reflect about the significance of their work. The teacher also knows how to recognize and admit when they have made a mistake and make an effort with sincerity to consider that they need to unlearn and relearn diverse attitudes and approaches. Furthermore it's also essential that in practice one knows how to renew the feeling of enthusiasm and involve children through this passion.
Secondly it means never getting bored of games, songs, dances, and accepting that of having hands covered in paint and glue is all part of the process. It also means spending an entire day singing kids songs that get stuck in your head. It is also laughing at everything and nothing at the same time and simply wishing for there to be sunlight.
Thirdly it is maintaining a constant celebration because tiny achievements in development require a big fiesta! It's also challenging the children to achieve their own goals each day and providing them with meaningful learning experiences. In a few words it is getting up and out of bed every morning thinking about what game or activity or workshop I will start with that day.
Number four is recognizing that the students’ problems become my problems because kids’ emotional development is just as important as their academic development. It is thinking about how to support them in their situations in both an individual and collective way.
Fifth it is being open to the wonderful and diverse questions about nature. And also having empathy when the children cry when they miss their “mommy” or “daddy.” Additionally, we teachers are full of remedies such as “magical hugs” or “contagious giggles” for when the students feel sick or sad. We always have a creative solution or in other words teachers are creative thinkers.
I could go on listing how we go from being just professionals to being professionals with a dedicated vocation. We are those who are passionate about what they do and we find the wonders of day-to-day work with children.We have to understand that when teachers work due to a vocation, our students find a safe space in the classrooms where they can learn and also be carefree and trust that their teacher will support them unconditionally. If you're a teacher remember that the children learn more from the teachers they love.