In 1994, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization created World Teachers’ Day to commemorate the October 5th intergovernmental conferences in Paris, which set international standards and guidelines for teachers.

Today, it is meant as a day to celebrate teachers all over the world and recognize the issues with which they are faced.

Being a Teacher Is Never “Just a Job”

Mann Elementary World Teachers' Day

Teacher (n) 1. a person who imparts wisdom or skill 2. someone who helps others to learn

I grew up in a family of teachers. My first day of kindergarten, my dad drove us both to the elementary school where he worked. I cried at the door because I missed my family, not knowing my dad was just on the other side of it, watching me through the window. Over the years, I used to walk down the hall to his classroom and play while he tutored his students, graded papers and prepared for the following day. Sometimes, we’d stop at the store to buy shoes, jackets, uniforms, school supplies, food and toys for some of his students.

I grew up watching him devote his time, money, love and life to doing everything in his power to help his students succeed. It was never just a job. Being entrusted with the lives of children should never be “just a job.”

This was the example of a teacher that my father set for me.

Classroom Lesson One: Imparting Wisdom and Skill

All over the word, there are strict guidelines set for being able to call oneself a teacher. In the United States, teachers need to:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree
  • Maintain certification by passing exams and completing other assignments for the subjects they wish to teach
  • Continually attend professional development opportunities.

Federal and state laws are in place to ensure the quality and effectiveness of teachers. Certification varies by state, and more importantly, it varies around the world. Learn more about global issues in education through Education International, the largest federation of unions for educators in the entire world. Then ask your students what requirements they think teachers have and why. Chances are, their answers will have more to do with emotional characteristics than statistics, which is an excellent transition into the next activity!

Teaching Around the World: Do You Have What It Takes?

I am Mala: World Teachers' DayDo your students know what it takes to be a teacher in your state? This would be a great college and career readiness project! To bring in a global perspective, tie in this lesson with how different educational systems are in other countries around the world by using books like I Am Malala. (See the book’s Teacher Resource for more ideas of questions to ask and outside resources you can use in relation to this text.)

World Teacher Day is a perfect opportunity to discuss how the differences between educational systems can influence both teachers and their students. There are many times when the personal lives of students, climate of the educational system and roles of the teacher go beyond the standard curriculum.

A few years ago, I had a student in my classroom who refused to do any of his writing assignments for the day. He was well known by other teachers and frequented the principal’s office. I remember how he stared up at me defiantly. But instead of sending him to the principal, I squatted down to meet his gaze and asked him what was wrong and if something was on his mind. Shocked, he immediately burst into tears, telling me about how the night before he watched policemen enter his home and take his father away in handcuffs. We talked quietly, and I amended his writing assignment to writing a letter to his father. However, I will never forget what he told me when he left class that day. He stayed behind after the others left and told me that he was sorry, needed to reflect on his own life decisions and take control of his actions.

That day, I saw a boy become a young man.

Teachers impart more than grammar rules, manipulating fractions and memorizing facts about the Civil War.

Student Reflection AssignmentA Child Called It: World Teachers' Day

Think back to your own teachers. What experiences did you share that turned into valuable lessons you’ll never forget? Have your students write about their own experiences.

This activity can be paired with a book study, such as A Child Called ‘It,’  for the mature high school classroom. Students can debate how the teacher influenced the main character’s life, what steps were taken and how things could have ended very differently.

Lesson Two: Helping Others to Learn

Teachers are met with varying levels of respect around the world. In the Netherlands, teaching is one of the most revered occupations a person can achieve. Teachers are considered some of the most important people of their society.

However, in most regions of the world, teachers are not regarded with that level of respect. In the United States, there is often a greater emphasis on being a doctor or engineer. This is interesting because teachers are the ones who lay down the foundation to create those doctors and engineers.

This makes me think back to when VCRs were still the main format movies came in, and DVDs were barely being introduced as the newest wonder of technology. I was a little girl playing in the living room when a man knocked on our door. I remember he drove a fancy car and asked to speak with my mother. When she saw him, they both broke out into a smile. He was a successful engineer who had written a book and dedicated it to my mother, his former English teacher. He had also bought a DVD and DVD player for her, as a thank you for being such a tremendous influence on his life.

My mother now has a whole collection of books resting on the bookshelf in her room, each one dedicated to her by one of her former students.

Teacher Goals: Classroom Discussion

a-day-in-the-life-of-a-teacherAsk your students what they think teachers do and why they do it. This question can be coupled with a real aloud, like A Day in the Life of a Teacher, and Taylor Mali’s TED Talk What Teachers Make. Students can write down a comparison of their original responses to the question presented with their ultimate reactions when the discussion is over.

Especially on World Teachers’ Day, these are the types of discussions students and professionals alike should be engaged in. What is the big deal with teachers? What legacy are they leaving behind? We have doctors, lawyers and engineers who are changing the world!

Well…all of their legacies are possible because of the foundation their teachers laid down. Humanity itself is a teacher’s legacy.

What could be more important than that? Celebrate your teachers today.

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