Socrates once said, “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think”. He summarised what it takes to be a great teacher in one sentence. Teaching is a noble profession. Not everyone can be a teacher let alone a great one.
Today, if anyone is being asked ‘what does make a teacher a good teacher?’, The answer will follow: a good teacher cares about his student, knows the content, knows how to explain it, and so on. But what makes a great teacher, remains a more critical question to answer. In an interview we published last month, we asked Dr. Syed Ferhat Anwar, the exact same question. His answer in a bit.
Dr. Syed Ferhat Anwar is a top-rated professor at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka. Known as Rahi sir among his students, he is widely popular and is regarded as one of the influential experts in the field of marketing, strategy, and management in Bangladesh.
In response to our questions about his thoughts on teaching, he says teachers are leaders by position and should not only teach from textbooks but also by setting examples. Find his meditation on what makes a great teacher below.
“Teaching is a fascinating profession. There is almost no other profession that resembles teaching”, says Dr. Syed Ferhat Anwar. “It is the only profession where you become a leader the day you start teaching. When we go to the classroom, we become leaders by chance, not by choice”.
This is an interesting way to look at the profession. It suggests when you get into a classroom as a teacher your job has become way more complex and important. If a teacher is a leader it means he/she is the one who is responsible for showing the past. Dr. Anwar Continues:
”This has implications that many of us don’t realize. One is we get to meet the expectations of a leader. Although most teachers start without much understanding of this trait, we develop it over the time which is an incredible asset”.
It is very important to understand what your students want, what they like and what they don’t like. Many teachers complain that students don’t show them respect or they don’t like his class. Where earning respect in teaching is easier than earning it at other professions.
”We earn the respect of our students and to some extent of society without much work”. But even then not every teacher can earn respect. And this remains a concerning thing for them.
“That said, not all the teachers earn respect”, says Dr. Syed Ferhat Anwar. “This is a strange thing and indicates a very profound human weakness. Because most teachers were students at one point in time. Invariably, when we were students we came across teachers who we did not like for reasons. The sad thing is that when we become a teacher we often forget this. As a teacher, I should know that the things that I disliked when I was a student, it is likely that my students would not like it either. We must actively try to overcome those limitations”.
“The way I see teaching is that we have this incredible opportunity to change the trajectory of the lives of people and thus a country and a nation,” says Dr. Anwar. “We get to influence people for the better or worse”.
Every teacher wants the betterment of his students. And in his entire life, a teacher advises his students to be good a person by putting him as an example before them. This an incredible opportunity to influence as well a heavy burden because the price of failure is often high.
“Naturally, as a teacher, most of us expect that our students would become good human beings. But we forget that teaching is a profession of setting the example. Human beings are wired to be influenced by actions than talk. In order to create good human beings we, teachers, have to be good human beings first. We have to show by examples”.
”As teachers, we get paid for gaining and imparting knowledge- a rare opportunity that very few professions have. But in our culture, we consider teaching as just another job”, says Dr. Anwar.
This is an important observation. The act of teaching is inherently involved with creating and imparting knowledge. Teachers are essentially knowledge workers. Unfortunately, this is not the case we often see in our society. If you look at the number of research papers and innovations coming out of our universities, it is easy to understand the reality.
“Another perspective is knowledge”, suggests Dr. Syed Ferhat Anwar. “Most teachers, despite having the opportunity to become a true knowledge worker, seldom take the pursuit of knowledge as something integral to their being- the result of which is evident in all over our academia”.
In the interview, Dr. Anwar reflects on his serendipitous journey to teaching. The entire interview is a magnificent read in its totality, enduringly excellent, intellectually empowering and a feast for any curious mind. You can read his full interview here.
(Ruhul Kader contributed to this story)