[Viewpoint]Teach each day with a first-day passion

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[Viewpoint]Teach each day with a first-day passion

A new school year has begun. Students are full of fresh energy. Their hearts seem to flutter, bursting with hope as they meet new teachers and new friends, and begin new classes.
Sharing a bit of the excitement as a parent of two children, I asked them about their new homeroom teachers. My son in grade 5 was all smiles. He said his new teacher was a woman he had seen a lot in the past and he liked her. “She told us that we’d play a lot of soccer during our gym classes, and she doesn’t seem to be too strict about rules,” he said. My son likes playing soccer, so he was pleased.
My daughter, who is a middle school student, said she was not sure. “I’ve never seen my teacher before, and my classmates have mixed reactions, too. My only hope is that he is good-natured,” she said.
During our conversation, I wondered whether I was wishing for “good teachers” for my children even more than the children themselves.
I hope, if it is possible at all, that they meet teachers who are young, skilled, kind, hardworking and not burdensome to their parents.
I am sure all parents feel the same way. After all, teachers can have a huge impact on the dreams and future direction of children.
Ban Ki-moon, who recently became the United Nations secretary general, recalled that his heart fluttered when his high school English teacher complimented him.
“Ki-moon, I hope you will be a great diplomat in the future. You speak good English, you don’t fight with others and you’re a good-natured student with good manners.”
A compliment from a teacher proved a turning point to the spiky-haired high school student who dreamed of becoming a diplomat, wrote Shin Woong-jin in his book about Mr. Ban, “Study Like a Fool but Dream Like a Genius.”
There are opposite cases, too. It seems that the careless words of a teacher were the cause of a case of arson that occurred at Jaecheon High School in North Chungcheong province on Thursday.
A senior student at the high school who is suspected of starting the fire said, “Although studying alone was hard enough for me, a teacher insulted me in front of my classmates, so I got mad and set the place on fire.”
Some time ago, a teacher who used violence on students was found guilty in court. Parents who hear of such news can’t help thinking, “What if my child ends up in the hands of a teacher like that?”
Teaching as a job is enjoying the height of popularity these days.
Only the top students are admitted to colleges of education and education departments of major universities.
The job enjoys great stability, with a guaranteed retirement age of 62. Passing the appointment examination for teachers is therefore, it is said, as difficult as getting through the eye of a needle.
About 7,000 new teachers are posted in different levels of schools this semester. They are young people with passionate beliefs who are full of confidence in education. They probably stimulate their senior colleagues, who otherwise like to teach students with more or less the same old teaching methods.
However, it is said that even new teachers become similar to their older colleagues within a few years.
Principal Kim Chang-rok of Chung-am High School in Seoul, the first high school in Korea that adopted a homeroom teacher selection system, explained, “Teachers tend to lose their drive and take on easy going attitudes, because their salaries rise automatically each year and there is no worry of dismissal.”
“Therefore, it is necessary to give them a stimulus,” he said. He said teachers forget, with the passage of time, the love of education and love for students they had when they first started teaching, doing things like sitting up all night preparing for classes, nurturing their own academic ability and memorizing the names of all their homeroom students before the start of a new semester.
Nationwide, there are 340,000 primary, middle and high school teachers in all.
How many of them would have thought from the beginning that teaching was only a job? Didn’t each of them start to teach children with the determination to be a good teacher?
It is my hope that teachers will change themselves in the new school year. What I mean is they should try to regain the hearts of parents and students.
They don’t have to worry about how to find a way to do this. Just by trying to recall the first day they nervously stepped on the platform in front of students, they would certainly feel the hot passion they had in their hearts.
Rekindling the fire of passion for teaching that they had at the beginning is also a way through which they can relieve the uneasiness and mistrust of parents and students, and enhance the competitiveness of our public education.
They should also try to heed, humbly, the criticism that teachers push their students to rely on private educational institutes, or that they are content to just enjoy their “iron bowls,” secure in their positions.
They would do well to recite the poem “Like the Beginning” by Shin Young-bok, a professor at Sungkonghoe University, to give them the courage to renew their spirit in the new school year:
“Like a young bird flying in the sky for the first time /Like a sprout rising up from the ground for the first time /In the evening when the day ends /Like the morning, like the new spring, like the beginning /We restart a new day.”

*The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yang Young-yu
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