Recognising our role models
LYON Terry is not a household name, he is not nearly as famous as Bill Gates, but he is a star in his own right. Lyon is a fourth-grade teacher and winner of this year's Washington state teacher of the year award. Last month, these two passionate individuals, Lyon and Bill, both with a deep sense of commitment to improving education, met in Seattle to talk about what can be done to improve schools, education and teaching. Despite the global stature, it was Lyon who did most of the talking. It was Bill's turn to learn from a master. Lyon Terry is an exceptional individual - with a deep sense of purpose, commitment and values that inspire his fourth grade students.
He instills in his students respect, creativity and above all a life-long desire to learn, despite failures. But Lyon is also lucky to be recognised for what he does with such passion. As we celebrate the new records of achievement with grades being discussed in our households and in our semi-private online lives, and recognise the intellect and genius of students amongst us, perhaps we should ask ourselves about those who make it all possible.
On the print, electronic and social media, there are often heart-warming sto- ries about the students who come from broken homes, shanty towns and have to work back-breaking jobs before and after their school, and it is absolutely necessary that we continue to celebrate these inspiring individuals. But equally important is recognition of those teachers, who remain unsung heroes and continue to find and polish the hidden gems.
Laptops and scholarships for those who outperform everyone through sheer will, dedication and a dogged pursuit of perfection is worthy, but why do those who enable these students to succeed never even get a line of appreciation in newspapers? Then, there are subtle and even more problematic dimensions, where the recognition, if any, is reserved for those who teach the sciences, but those who teach languages, arts and humanities do not get any share of the acknowledgements. While there are plenty of photo-ops for the brilliant students, as there should be, there is never a story about the commitment, despite the unimaginable challenges, of our teachers. I am sure, in their stories, should we decide to tell them, we will find the same desire and commitment to create a better Pakistan as we find in the stories of our most gifted students.
There are many things wrong with our education system, which has a long way to go. And to be absolutely clear, not every teacher is, by definition, a great or even a good teacher. Indeed, many teachers and mentors within our system fail to stand up to the basic dignity of the profession and need to be brought in front of a magistrate than in front of our students, but there are many who, despite the odds, create the magic of learning in classrooms with no resources.
We cannot forget that success in academics is a multi-player sport, and is almost never without mentorship and guidance. Dedicated men and women in villages, towns and cities across the country rise in the morning every day with a commitment to enlighten minds, walk long miles and earn little. They do not get a high-paying salary when their students succeed, or a scholarship to go abroad when their proteges shine, or get invited by the rich and the famous - instead they do what they do because they believe that it is the right thing to do. Our inability to recognise their effort, and invest in their success and development only means that we are not holding our end of the bargain in doing the right thing. And then we ask, how come nobody wants to become a teacher?