Is teaching a noble profession? On Teachers’ Day, we revisit this notion

Updated - August 31, 2019 01:19 pm IST

Published - August 31, 2019 12:31 pm IST

“You touched my life and I have grown as a person. Thank you for being a wonderful teacher. Happy Teachers’ Day!” A successful engineer sent this message to one of his teachers. Touched by her former student’s beautiful message, the teacher replied to him, “You were a wonderful student and you made me a great teacher.

Everyone takes delight in wishing their teachers “Happy Teachers’ Day” on September 5, when the nation celebrates the greatness of teachers and reminds them that teaching is a noble profession. The day is an occasion for teachers to be proud of their profession, and to think of ways to make it nobler.

On one of the Teachers’ Day, a young teacher asked her students, “Dear students, do you think teaching is a noble profession?” The teacher was elated when almost all the students agreed that teaching is a noble profession. “Why do you say that teaching is a noble profession?” The students listed a number of qualities including selfless service, dedication, magnanimity, commitment, broad-mindedness, and strong work ethics. Overjoyed, she threw her third question at them: “How many of you want to become teachers?” This time there was no response from any of the students. Disappointed, she asked the same question in a different tone this time. One student reluctantly put up her hand and tried to say something. The teacher asked her why she wants to become a teacher.


“My parents are teachers. My dad works in a government school and my mom works in a private school. Both of them are good teachers and they love their profession. My dad’s salary is five times more than that of my mom. Of late, my mom feels that she is exploited and thinks that teaching is no longer a noble profession. The experiences of my mom and her colleagues make me think that now teachers are not respected in society. I don’t think my parents will be happy if I tell them that I want to become a teacher.”

Though the student’s response did shake the young teacher as she herself has gone through such experiences, she smiled at the student and said, “I do understand your mom’s feelings, but at the same time I feel that your mom as a teacher is liked and admired by her students. Doesn’t that make her feel proud of being a teacher?” The student smiled back and replied, “Yes, my mom is a good teacher and will continue to be a good teacher. Though she faces numerous problems, she is proud of her profession. That is why I want to become a teacher.”

A few days ago, I initiated a discussion online “Why was/is teaching called a noble profession? Was it really a noble profession in the past? Is it a noble profession today?” Educators and teachers from different parts of the world took part in the discussion and posted their comments. Many said that teaching continues to be a noble profession today, but some argued saying that the notion has changed in India and in many parts of the world.

Colin Massey, an educator, comments, “In standard schools the nobility of education hasn't vanished. But in public, private and international schools that concept has vanished totally.” Shiny Dhanush, a practising teacher, states, “Teaching is a noble profession. Teachers are selfless, they are always ready to go to any extent to help their students. It gives a great feel of self-satisfaction to a teacher when they see their students achieve in life. But in today’s world, the word “noble” is misused. There was a time when teachers used to stretch themselves to help their students without any expectation, but now teachers are demanded to do it with no extra benefits because, ‘teaching is a noble profession’. There is a big difference between doing something voluntarily and being forced to.”

It is quite unfortunate that “noble teachers” are exploited by people. Is the system responsible for making some teachers think that the profession has ceased to be noble? What should teachers do to remain a part of this noble profession? Teachers should be proud of their profession and take concrete steps to make their profession nobler. They should be aware of the changing roles in the modern world, and should be able to respond positively. In my view, being noble means being brave, committed, and ethical. It also implies being aware of changes happening in the society, understanding the psychology of the students, responding positively to their needs and, thus, leading a meaning life.

Changing roles

Several changes that have taken place in the world have changed the roles of teachers too. Teachers are expected to be co-creators of knowledge, educators and reformers too.

As co-creators of knowledge: In the past, teachers thought they were sources of knowledge but now, fortunately, everyone knows that they are not. Thanks to the technological development and easy access to the Internet, teachers and learners have access to information from different sources, and are able to transform information into knowledge and become co-creators of knowledge. Teachers who have undergone a paradigm shift believe that learners are also capable of creating knowledge. When there is a positive change in the attitude of teachers towards learners, teachers are able to connect with students in a better way. This connection helps teachers and students experience that teaching is a noble profession.

As educators: An educator is different from a teacher in many ways. Ordinary teachers are instructors who focus on academic activities, prepare students for exams and help them achieve academic success. Educators, on the other hand, are not mere teachers. They possess something called “teacher + qualities”, which makes them different from ordinary teachers. They look at issues critically and enable students to become critical thinkers. They go beyond the syllabus and focus on preparing students for life. Ordinary teachers make students depend on them, whereas educators enable students to become independent and interdependent. If good teachers are considered noble people, critical educators should be considered nobler people.

As reform leaders: Teachers should be reformers and leaders too. They should make students think critically, question the status quo, and respond positively to society’s needs. They should raise students’ consciousness and make them aware of and respond to various issues. It implies that teachers should show interest in such issues and encourage students to look at them critically.

Let’s continue to make our students feel good and say that teaching is truly a noble profession. Happy Teachers’ Day!

The writer is an academic, columnist and freelance writer. E:

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