What does it mean to be an Educator?
It simply is this: An educator’s role is to teach an individual to reach their full potential.
An educator, in a conventional understanding, is someone who teaches a knowledge based subject matter such as Maths or History or Music.
An educator in the broadest sense (by educator I also include Office staff, TAs, Dinner ladies, Lolly pop man), is someone a child/young person meets in an educational environment away from home, who will have a profound impact on that child for the formative years of their life. They will have a significant influence on how each child perceives the world and themselves. From there each child will form their own perspective of ‘life’ based on their experiences both at home and at school.
Recently I heard about a situation during a TV programme where a well-known actress was struggling to complete a maths task and that the other contestants and audience were laughing; there was the look of confusion and discomfort she felt in that awkward moment where she simply did not know what she needed to do. I wondered if she felt that way since she was at school, labelled as someone who can’t do maths. Not only that but it was okay for other people to laugh at her for not having learnt the skill to do the task at hand…
A single comment or gesture or a look can enable or destroy a child’s hopes and dreams in an instant. I am sure most of us have experienced both the positive and negative influence a teacher has upon our life at school. I confess I have also done that to students in the past. Since practicing the SEJ Process, I address my response to them and support the students in whatever they need the help with. I no longer laugh or make comments because my role is to nurture and support in their progress not hinder it.
Therefore, it would be fair to say that an educator is someone who has a great influence on a young person’s experience of life from a very young age. Unfortunately, we as educators’ measure of the success of these students is often by the standard of their academic ability.
The often quoted saying “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” is not that far off the experience of many students that I have met. Often, before they ask for any help, they will pre-phrase by saying “You must think I’m stupid, but can you explain….”. Until I practiced the SEJ Process I did not question this part of their query. But this is a serious issue, because if they truly believe that they are stupid, they will struggle no matter what they do. Not only that but anyone (educators in particular) will treat them as ‘stupid’ reinforcing the limiting thought held by the student thus preventing them from reaching their full potential.
We as educators have the responsibility in nurturing and enabling young people to reach their full potential no matter what that may be; we equate academic success at school as an indicator of their life success but that is only one aspect of their true full potential.
The late Duke of Edinburgh is quoted as saying, about the Duke of Edinburgh Award, that
“If you can get young people to succeed in any area of activity,” he told the BBC, “that sensation of success will spread over into a lot of others.”
In taking full responsibility of how we perceive students in front of us we can see their genuine and real potential. From there it is teaching them how they can reach their full potential, whether climbing the tree or swimming in the sea i.e. ‘to succeed in any area of activity’. When we ourselves reach our full potential by questioning our own beliefs and preconceived ideas, by the practice of the SEJ in every moment, we will know how to respond to each individual student by giving them the time and space to succeed.
Dr M Howard-Kishi
19 April 2021