Oh yeah, did you know Buddhist monks in Cambodia often have schools next to their temples?
Have a look more carefully next time you’re heading up to Phnom Penh.
‘World Teacher’s Day’ falls on October 5th as an initiative of UNESCO, the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
In Việt Nam, National Teacher’s Day will be celebrated on the 20th of November.
The last time they seriously counted the number of teachers in the world was back in 2009.
According to the United Nations, there were around 100 million teachers worldwide and in Việt Nam somewhere over 1 million teachers for a student population totaling 22 million.
It’s a hard gig being a teacher anywhere in the world.
Homework, tests to prepare, meetings, lessons plans, attendance lists, marking, scoring, new things to learn, upgrading material and all of that is before you get in the classroom.
Then there is the learning, instructing, explaining, drawing, scribbling, helping, calming, dealing with difficult students, encouraging, rewarding and punishing that goes on.
And after that, you have to face the parents and management, explaining, justifying, defending, adjusting and organizing that needs to be done.
I know very well the respect that the teaching of Confucius so long ago gave to teachers but there’s something more here to think about…
Teaching is not as simple as maybe people think it is.
Across Việt Nam, maybe even as you read this, there’s a teacher struggling up a hill to a bamboo shack in the mountains to teach in the mist covered mountains.
There’s probably a teacher preparing for classes on a floating village.
It’s very certain that some teachers will travel far to their classrooms and others who have little choice to teach in distant areas from home and loved ones.
Some might have to brave cold, powerful rivers to cross to the other side.
Others don’t have the luxury of laptops, whiteboards and internet.
More than a few, I’m sure, work in hot, dusty rooms with no air-conditioning.
And spare a good luck wish for those teachers who work in areas so remote that the students barely understand Việt Nam.
And all of this for a low salary compared to private enterprise.
Society places a huge weight on the slender Vietnamese teachers’ shoulders.
It’s even worse if there’s little opportunity for professional support, mentoring, training and development.
Yet, everyday, your teacher turns up at work.
There’s no ‘rubber time’ here.
Your teacher is ready.
Maybe he or she is great at the job or simply doesn’t have enough experience.
However we all expect them to make our children clever, achieve high marks, learn social skills, soft skills for business, life skills to survive and avoid social evils, enjoy learning and come home happy.
It’s sometimes a miracle that education works at all!
And if this was not enough… your teacher also has to be polite, kind, gentle, patient, and knowledgeable and not lose their temper!
Want to respect your teacher?
Here’s a simple test you can do.
Try to remember when you taught a friend, wife, husband, workmate or stranger how to do something.
Did you lose patience?
Did you think it was easy?
Did you have to explain everything five times?
Did you have to find another way to explain?
Did you have to let your student go and make their own mistakes?
Was your student interested or bored?
Willing to learn or afraid?
And… at what point did you give up?
From the earliest days men have taught their children to hunt, to farm, to think.
Mothers have taught their daughters to cook, to plan, to organize.
Later, people needed to show strangers how to do things.
None of this simple, there’s a great deal of wisdom and advice to explain. This is an ‘art’, not a science.
Teachers deal with people, not just knowledge.
So this Teacher’s Day, stop before you buy the flowers and write the card.
Remember the one teacher who you remember well… and feel that little smile grow across your face… then buy the flowers.