He alone teaches who has something to give, for teaching is not talking, teaching is not imparting doctrines, it is communicating – Swami Vivekananda
Thinking about the Perfect Teacher: When I was in college and studying comparative religions, I read a book by Patrul Rinpoche on Tibetan Buddhism. It was called Words of My Perfect Teacher. I don’t remember too much of what the book was about (probably the tenets of Buddhism), but the title has always stuck with me. My Perfect Teacher. Is there even such a thing? If so, what would that person be like? And what would they teach me?
I was reminded of the idea of the perfect teacher again this weekend when I watched the movie, The Disciple. It was about the relationship between a student of classical Indian music and his Guru. The student was struggling to find his true voice and his Guru was trying to help him. Here’s the movie trailer if you are interested. (Youtube).
The Teacher-Student Relationship: Since I have been living in Delhi for the past five years, I have become more informed about traditional Indian culture and practices. The idea of the Guru in Indian mythology is significant. “The term ‘guru’ has a meaning behind it. ‘Gu’ stands for darkness and ‘Ru’ means removing darkness.” (Times of India). At one point in The Disciple, the Guru says to his student “No, you are not listening.” There is a reciprocal nature in the relationship between a teacher and a student. The teacher can impart wisdom, but only if the student is open and paying attention. Thus the teacher has to communicate in a way that is clear and non-threatening.
As a teacher, I think a lot about the concept of the Guru. I spend most of my day giving lessons to others. I provide feedback, support, advice, and suggestions. I tell students what to do and how to do it. I critique their work and push their thinking forward. But how do my students see me? And who is my teacher?
My Search for a Guru: The COETAIL materials for this week were centered around the power of coaching. I watched a video from Eduro Learning about why teachers should work with coaches. (Youtube). The video reminded me of how important it is for teachers to have people who serve as Gurus in their lives.
According to the video, teachers should work with coaches because coaches can:
- Give teachers ideas and structures for how to teach better.
- Help teachers feel less isolated and alone.
- Provide teachers with a different perspective and viewpoint to consider.
A good coach is like a Guru in the sense that the coach provides wisdom and guides the path of the teacher just as the teacher guides the path of the students. Especially for novice teachers, the importance of a skilled coach cannot be understated. When I was starting out in the field, I didn’t have one. Boy, do I wish I had. As a beginning teacher, I was scared to reach out and admit when I needed help. I spent a lot of time alone in my classroom those first few years feeling isolated and confused.
Probably one of the best parts of working in international schools is that most of them are well-resourced enough to have coaches. And, not only do they have coaches but they also have highly skilled technology coordinators, tech departments, librarians, marketing directors, and administrators. So, when a teacher is looking to collaborate or get outside support, there are plenty of people to contact.
Who are my Gurus? For the digital storytelling unit that I am planning on implementing for COETAIL Course 5, I have sought advice and help from a whole slew of people already. Here’s a list of all the folks who I can think of who have supported me so far:
- Our grade 5 EAL teacher, Shafali, saw my post about the storytelling unit on Twitter and decided to collaborate on it with me.
- My COETAIL colleague, Justin, reviewed my unit plan and put me in contact with a digital storytelling expert and ed-tech coach from Singapore American School (SAS).
- David, the expert from SAS, Zoomed with me and shared his tips and tricks for creating successful digital stories.
- Our MS technology coordinator, Maureen, met with me to discuss recording audio and creating iMOVIEs.
- Sheena, the math teacher across the hall from me, and a talented Instagram storyteller shared her tips with me about how to use music and aesthetics to draw viewers in.
- Leeça, a storyteller and photographer living in Quebec, agreed to give an evening lecture to our students and their families about “Storytelling Through A Lens”.
- Our MS learning coach, Tennille, met with me several times (and with who I plan to meet with again once the unit gets rolling) to review my unit plan, go over my lessons and help me figure out how to showcase the learning. She also encouraged me to share my digital storytelling unit with my colleagues at an upcoming teachers-teaching-teachers PD session.
- Tara and Diana, our COETAIL coaches, gave me feedback on my blog posts related to the unit plan (plus Tara also shared her podcasting resources with me).
- Our school librarians, Faze and Wendy, sent books about podcasting, storytelling, and book creating, up to my classroom for the students to look through and have on hand as resources.
- Our marketing director, Czaee, helped Shafali and I create an amazing poster for the Digital Storytelling special event with Leeça.
- My COETAIL cohort, and you, the blog readers, who are going to be sharing feedback and comments along the way as this semester proceeds. Thank you in advance, dear readers:)
I’m probably forgetting people and for that I am sorry. But you get the point. For me, it’s not just about the one Guru. It’s about the whole community. It’s about all of the individuals who I have met along the way who helped me and inspired me. Thank you, everyone!!
Embarking on this unit I feel supported and prepared. I have all of the abovementioned people to lean on and work with when I need an outside opinion. So, perhaps, my perfect teacher isn’t just one person, but the sum total of all the individuals who have helped me and guided me over the past twenty years as I have strived to become a better teacher. And, honestly, what more can I ask for.