Since Friday 29th of June it is officially on paper, I can now call myself “a teacher”.
My journey as a teacher started a while back, to be precise in 2012 by an intuitive decision after reflecting on my career when I was seeking for a suitable profession where I could express my creative, vigorous nomadic life-wise being. After numerous failed attempts and rejections to become a designer, artist or a career as Pilates or Yoga Instructor, which the sport physicians strongly advised not to proceed with as my body physics weren’t fit enough, I stranded miserably in administrative jobs leaving me mentally unchallenged and uncreative.
Becoming a teacher seemed the solution for having a movable, creative life away from technology and where I could express myself while passing on life-wisdom and guiding youngsters. I went to the TAFE Newcastle College to enquire about my training and discuss a potential career as a teacher. But was shortly sent away, because I couldn’t answer the two following questions:
Whom are your students?
What is your subject?
Well, to me my answers where clear but non acceptable for the school to start my training. How could I possible know whom my students were if I haven’t taught before? My subject was a different matter, with my broad range of skills I could teach anything, the problem was that I had no solid expertise in “a subject” other than life skills.
My inner drive was solid, I had to teach and I would, so I did. I left Australia in 2013 to teach English in my first school, a small primary school in the foothills of the Himalaya’s overlooking Annapurna range. The school had limited facilities and learning materials. There were no toilets not for the children neither for the teachers or staff but I was happy to join the kids behind a wall that once belonged to a toilet complex. I became inventive and creative creating paintbrushes from my own hair just so we could paint.
In each of my classes there were students of different age groups with different levels of English. In this primitive school, teaching with differentiation isn’t new. There, I made my smartest kid, Sanjip, who was out of control because of boredom my co-teacher. The 6 year old boy was so excited to sit next to me in front of his class mates and was pleased to help me with correcting his peers.
In India, everything always seems to flow for me. I was at a very short noticed invited to replace a friend to give a typography workshop at a University. This workshop led me to becoming the external examiner for the Design Institute and for the overall English communication skills of the University. It was clear I had impressed the University with my presence as shortly after I was standing in front of the campus's young woman giving a lecture on “independent woman, woman in engineering and woman empowerment”. Something I could have never imagined would happen in my life but as they say in India nothing is impossible.
At the design department of this University I felt in the hands of a bunch of non-driven and uninspiring teachers. The level of creativity, drawing skills and motivation of the students was poor. Thirty percent of the students didn’t belong there, they weren’t interested in becoming an architect or graphic designer but had other aspirations just like many others at the University. At the woman event, many girls approached me seeking advice because their parents had forced them in a field of education that didn't interest them.
At one point I spoke with a girl, who dreamed to become a mechanical engineer. She was fascinated by mechanics but here parents told her this wasn’t a career for a girl and sent her to IT because this would give her more opportunities abroad. Most parents had chosen the path for their youngster thinking this would be the best option to support the family later in life. Or uneducated parents from villages weren’t properly informed about today’s range of courses and career possibilities. They hear what is popular on the market and that is what their son or daughter would do.
About a year later I found myself in a small unknown town in a private primary school with an inspiring director who was passionate about the future of her little pupils. Her children would learn through exploring, experimenting and discovering. She didn’t care for scores, grades and particular subjects but only to bring out the most out of each student this with their individual learning abilities. I couldn't be a part of this school due to laws and politics that didn't grant me to teach there but till today I keep sharing my knowledge with the school.
Forced to return to Europe I started teaching adolescence English in a Language Centre but shortly stopped as I found myself unskilled and knowledgeable to languages as a subject and realised that I would need to have proper education to become a teacher.
In 2016, I stepped into my teacher training where I was once again asked for my subject and my students but by Belgium law and due to the shortage of teachers, our rectors give you no choice. In fact, it is the Bachelor Degree that permits your subject and therefore I became a teacher in Arts, which back in 2013 had proposed to the student advisers at TAFE.
During my course, I couldn’t resist the temptation not to teach and accepted a short teaching experience in a secondary school in Brussels. Here the main issue wasn’t the language barrier but multiple other languages, a culture gap, children that outsmart the teachers and kids that found education unnecessarily in live. On top of this the school couldn't facilitate for its students, neither its teachers. Sadly the majority of teachers was in despair and left with a burn-out.
This experience took me by surprise as my country has so much “hidden” wealth, so much money is there in every home but still it cannot afford to upgrade schools facilities or provide extra tools and training for its teachers. It cannot afford to invest in the future of the people who will one day take over from us. So much money is going to waist for unneeded armory, business investments and unneeded endless political discussions that lead to nowhere.
This while our schoolkids haven’t got enough benches, enough playgrounds, learning facilities, libraries, ICT tools, teachers and good active learning environment …
This short film is a self-reflection of my journey as a teacher.
As for my year and a half education as a teacher, I had to deal with a lot more than learning didactic, pedagogy, psychology … I had to re-learn Arts, re-learn my lost mother tongue I had lost over the course of living abroad for 10 years. I had to learn French to survive in Brussels, adjust to an individualistic first-world country while I feel more suited for a socialistic third world country lifestyle. I faced housing problems and government staff who was lost in their own administration. In a nutshell, I was teaching part-time in English and French, whilst studying full-time in Dutch and chanting Sanskrit texts as a part of my Dharmic path.
This while I discovered I am dyslectic with an adoration for French, Sanskrit and Arabic language, a love for writing and a passion for sharing my stories with the world. As you can see my one page attempt turned into four. After these two years of chanting Vedic mantra's, whilst studying I became a living proof that mantra’s can aid concentration problems and increase one’s intellect. If scientist haven't proven this fact I can only say from my one experience that these sacred chants have the ability to re-wire and structure the brain.
Leaving all this on the side and coming to the conclusion of my 10 teacher commands.
After my experiences and exploring educations in various ways what does it really mean to me to be a teacher?
To me teacher is a person who has the ability to train, guide and lift others to their highest potential without strain, pressure or time but with passion, love and lots of enthusiasm.
A teacher should be a master in observing his/her students behaviour.
A teacher should have a great sense of awareness towards “seeing” their students’ path, even when the student him/herself isn’t yet aware of this.
A teacher should be a focused student him/herself in order to teach his/her students to stay focused.
A teacher should have the ability to make the parents see the same quality/potential as their child so they can support their son/daughter on their journey.
A teacher should be motivating, pro-active and inspiring.
A teacher should be an expertise in his/her subject. They should know the practice behind the theory so they can come up with real-life examples to show why we take certain decisions or do the things we do.
A teacher should be open-minded towards other cultures and flexible towards its students and parents.
A teacher shouldn’t think about his wealth fare at the end of each month but should look at his/her student 30 years later as a global reformer, a performer, artist, scientist, environmental engineer, inventor … and be proud of what they’ve achieved together.
A teacher must be reliable, honest, trustworthy, warm and kind-hearted so we can teach and show our children that not all in this world is mad.
A teacher must LOVE each one of his/her students, regardless the paper planes, nasty words and physical abuse. Just remember an adolescence is still a child.
As for me and my future teacher career. I am not a school teacher, not a university teacher neither an adult teacher. I am just a visionary, a messenger who strives for a better world. Through my voice, art and words I try to make people see, to become more aware of their environment and themselves as human beings.
I try to reconnect people with humanity rather than objects. I teach people how to breathe and to become aware of their respiration. I re-educate people how to have respect for their own bodies by conscious movements. I make people aware that the physical appearance given to them doesn't change a persons nature. Accept your body and worship it.
I educate people to have respect for their environment and to be open for other believes, religions and different cultures. I teach how not to fear for the future, nor to take risks to make a change and to accept the challenges of life as they come and go.
Therefore it doesn’t matter whether I am in front of little children, high-school students or adults. It doesn’t matter which subject is given to me because any subject I can learn and thus teach. Whether I am teaching Yoga, Pilates, Arts or English “my voice” can be heard in many different other ways.
My only prayers are to make a small change, to be an inspiration for others to join me on the path of respect, contemplation, devotion, and love, instead of following a life based on egoism, greediness, desires and fears.
May your path be clear and free from obstacles so peace and love can liberate the light in your heart.
Mata, with love for education
Artwork "Everything is possible" by Mata (Brigitte Gouwy)
Video "iTeach Cartoons and visuals by Mata (Brigitte Gouwy)
"Saraswati Vandana" by Ankita Joshi, Eshwari Pandit, Sneha Suresh
"La redécouverte" by Yann Tiersen
"Prelude" by Safri Duo
"Chameaux" By Ludovico Einaudi