Monday, 2 September 2013

Points To Ponder

Not Ordinary Teachers?
by Dunstan Chan

Last week NUTP president Hashim Adnan said the goverment should consider lowering the benchmark to enter the teaching profession for students who have been active in sports.

"We cannot expect students active in sports to be able to produce results like inactive students as they would need to go for training and may miss lessons or have less time to study. Instaed of ignoring them, the ministry must make allowances for those who have represented the state or the nation in sports.

This suggestion raised quite a few eyebrows. In the case of my friend John, it was more than just raising the eyebrow. It was the deep furrow of a worried frown.

Perhaps it is understandable; John still has two children in school and he, like many, subscribes to the belief that brain and brawn are two mutually exclusive commodities. Such a belief has been prevalent for years. In fact the Chinese have an expression 'boon bu chuan chai' (Hokkien) meaning the complete man is one who is at once a scholar and a warrior, in their consideration, a very rare phenomenon.

John is concerned that his children might be taught by someone who might not be fully equipped for the job by virtue of his or her commitment to activitites other than academic.

Let me at this point go off tangent somewhat to offer my two-sen worth view on education. The prevalent culture in Malaysia I note is that a school is a place where the teacher (being the fountain of knowledge) dispenses knowledge to the students (the receptacles). The task of the students in turn is to reproduce the said knowledge during the examination. Thus, note taking becomes a very important activity. Reproduction is a premium while exploration of beyond the realm defined by the textbooks take a very far backseat.

Interestingly, such a mindset is carried beyond the school years. One of the first things I got  asked when I ran training programmes for adults is "Are there notes?" I posed the same question to the late Zig Ziglar (he was one of foremost motivational speakers and trainers in the US) when I attended his seminar some ten years ago. I noted that  the seminar files given to the participants contained mostly blank pages. He gave me a gentle smile and explained to me that he wanted us to write down on those pages the learning points from the seminar and add extra comments or counter points if we so wished. This would help us to internalise the lessons. He said that no two participants would likely  to have identical notes. He was at pains to point out that learning is a very individual experience.

The key word in education is 'learning'. I remember the word of a very wise professor: "My aim is not to try to give you all the words on the subject. Suffice for me that you leave this place with the desire to learn; that you accept that learning is a lifelong activity. If I manage to teach you to learn how to learn then I believe I have fullfilled my vocation."

This brings me back to the issue of champion sportsmen being given special dispensation from exacting pre-qualification of becoming teachers. Instinctively one may    balk at the idea. How can we accept the idea of someone, who because of his preoccupation with sports and thus was unable to acquire sufficient knowledge, to teach our kids? However, after I had pondered on the matter for a while I came to the conclusion that these sportsmen may be able to offer the students something as valuable, if not more, than the ordinary teachers.

The key ingredients for sporting successs are courage, discipline and a willingness to learn. They would have agreed with the wors of Winston Churchill: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

These sportsmen would have learned that without hard work there would be no success. My neice enjoyed a measure of success as a swimmer. I know that by the time she won a medal at the SEA Games she would had swam enough lengths to reach all the way around the world. For a period of ten years, she never got out from bed later than 5.30 am. Incidentally, so did her mother who was her driver.

Champions would have had to endure the berating of their coaches, swallowed their pride and put their heads down and continued with their training and practices.

These and other fine values  the champion sportsmen teachers can share with their students. These are the attitudes they have acquired not from books but throught actual experiences. Surely that's worth something.  

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