“Mata, Pita, Guru, Deva”– this is a spiritual Sanskrit mantra from the Hindu scripture. Basically, it emphasises the importance of having some influential individuals in one’s lives. The connection of this mantra to our existence provides a meaningful explanation. To elaborate further, Mata means mother, Pita is father, Guru is a spiritual teacher (monk, priests, and pastors) and finally Deva is god. This mantra can be interpreted in many different ways, according to people’s own understanding, but for me, I perceive that teachers are regarded higher than god. Thus, respecting them is essentially vital because they are our role model and guide. For this reason, teaching is regarded as a noble career. Well, all teachers should feel proud about it and continue to perform well. Matt Esterman in his blog was referring to the verse that connects to teaching and learning and how at times it affects his inspirational skill to deliver his service as a passionate teacher. This triggers me to write about a mantra that personally empowers me to become a teacher. By sharing my views, I expect other teachers to pause for a while and be grateful for choosing teaching as a career.
As a child, I was introduced to many different aspects of life while living in a diverse country like Malaysia. One of the essential elements that I can resonate now is accepting tolerance and assimilating within the society we lived in. This was possible because my parents treated all people equally irrespective of their cultural and religious background. They value harmony for peace and prosperity in the community. For them, good deeds, respecting others, showing empathy and embracing numerous positive attitudes are a way of life. Similar thoughts were shared by Robin Julian during a tutorial session at UNSW. He is one of the authors of the Society and Culture Textbook (Heinemann). He strongly felt his ideology was shaped by his upbringing. According to him, his parents had always treated others with respect, especially migrants and this generated a chain effect on how he too believed in the ideology of acceptance and respecting others as who they are.
Referring back to the mantra, very early in my life, I was taught that teachers are to be respected. I believe this mantra gives a hierarchical level for respecting everyone in an orderly way. This is my own interpretation and others can interpret as to their liking. Since, a mother is the first person who brought us into this world; she gets the highest respect, followed by father, then guru (teacher-as per my understanding) and finally god. So, it makes sense that teachers are positioned higher than the god. For all teachers out there, you’re not only the knowledge provider, guidance, mentor, facilitator, motivator and confidant, but a person who can make a difference in each and every student you teach. Even if you are an atheist , you are a winner because teachers are the ultimate guide for one’s success and progress.
Most Asian cultures value this slogan or anything similar to this, in their educational system whilst teaching their students. Perhaps, due to this reason, teachers are highly respected in these communities. In contrast, teachers are viewed differently in western culture and I was taken aback to see some students showing a lack of respect to teachers while teaching in Sydney. These are quite evident in some of the low socio economic schools and teachers in these schools are doing their level best in ensuring classroom lessons are being delivered effectively and students being treated as a respected person. Schools have their own policy in the classroom management and often, it greatly affects on how I have to change my personality just to cater for the teaching requirements of these schools. I have to admit, not easy though.
Teaching in Sydney and from my observation of other teachers, I found teachers have to earn their respect by understanding that students are to be taken care, no matter how misbehaving the students are at times. This is especially true, if you’re teaching senior students; the style of teaching also differs. In some schools the formal way of teaching is not applicable as students want to connect with teachers. This is a typical scenario in government schools. Whereas, in some of the denominational schools, teaching practices differ. Teachers tend to use different teaching styles which I believe manifest from the British Colonial System. Surprisingly, this style of teaching still persists. For example, teachers generally demand respect from students. Students have to stand up as and when they enter into the classroom, prior to getting the nod from the teacher allowing them to sit down. The atmosphere in the classroom was very rigid and students are strictly following teacher’s direction. The teacher student relationship is forged on the basis that “I am in control of this class and you’re merely listening to me”. Even, one teacher wanted her students to greet her before they can leave the classroom and accordingly, standing up in front of their desks to wish farewell. The teacher has to say, “Ok, you all can leave now”. Her concept is ‘I am your teacher, not your friend’. The assertiveness in this type of teaching style is needed due to the school policy or depends on the personality of the teacher. I am still very convinced that I can use my own teaching style when I am permanently based in a school.
No matter what, when, where, and how we are teaching, one message that I would like to depart with is that “give respect and take respect”. The ways we teach and communicate have greater impact on our teaching and the way students learn. Living and teaching in this era of information technology, giving a personal human touch by using the digital touch can also inspire others to excel and perform well in teaching. This can be done by spreading good thoughts and deeds of fellow teachers as well as to encourage them in their way to teaching perfection and satisfaction. Above all, teachers should feel grateful for choosing a professional that puts them in one of the highest order, needless to say the effect of your teaching can be felt instantly and be reminded of Mata, Pita, Guru and Deva.