Saturday, January 31, 2009

Learn And You Shall Be Taught

What was your childhood ambition?

Many of us changed our minds along the way but many grew up wishing that they could become a teacher, well, at least, at one time or another (oh! Just admit that, will ya?)

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a teacher, especially when you only have 5 to 9 years to form a rather shallow world view. At that impressionable age, we are most influenced by our parents, siblings (minus the rivalry part) and our teachers (minus those we hate).

Now that I am way past that stage, I am quite clear that teaching is not for me. The image of me facing a class of 40 monstrous kids is a scary one, both for me and the kids, and perhaps, their parents, too.

Still, I think teaching is an admirable profession. I do owe much of what I have today to many of my teachers:

Primary school: Together with the other silly little girls, we idolized some of our favorite teachers. One of my form teachers was my "idol". She cared for me in many ways and she even took time during weekends to bring me to the dentist! What a horrifying way to show her concern!

Secondary school: My biology teacher lent me the whole set of human vertebral column (a.k.a. back bones and they weren't plastics) so that I could better learn to differentiate the all too confusing vertebrae. I received a book price for biology when I graduated even though my pursuit ended there. I was very sure that I wouldn't enjoy slicing the tummies of the white rats.

Junior college: My English teacher tirelessly helped me during and after classes so that he could save me from a hopeless "F7" in year one to a "B3" for A level General Paper. Kudos to him!

Tertiary: I went to the University but there were no teachers there. I call them "Learning Facilitators". They were great in many ways but not as teachers.

There are many more teachers whom I owed a lot to and I recall how I always looked up to them as capable adults. Yes, adults. Teachers must be grown-ups, so I thought, until I recently read about Adora Svitak.

Adora was born in Oct 1997 and she is now 11. Just like other kids her age, Adora spends a lot of time in school, but not as a pupil. She goes to school as a teacher and she gets invited to lecture many adults in the US and the UK for as high as $10,000 a go.

Yes, Adora is the youngest professor!!

She is also the author of many published essays, stories and poems. At age 7, she began writing blogs and in Jan 2007, she published her first full-length novel "Yang in Disguise". I have heard her over a radio interview and if I have not watched some of her video clips, I would not have believed that I was listening to an 11-year old. Her delivery was totally eloquent and mature.

She loves writing and has even written a book 'Flying Fingers" giving hints and tips to other aspiring writers.

At her blog, she describes herself at the blog banner as "Writer, Poet and Humanitarian". I was already impressed even before I clicked on any of the articles. "Humanitarian" is a big word for many kids and some adults too. To me, it is a very humbling word which I do not expect to come from an 11-year old.

I now change my mental model of a 'teacher'.

Anyone can be a teacher so long as you know something that others don't and you are willing to impart it. We can learn a whole lot from anyone if only we constantly remind ourselves of our own inadequacies.

Everyone can be a teacher and age doesn't really matter!

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