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Tips for Teachers

| September 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Mark Grace

Recently, I received a copy of a letter written on 15 June 1931.

The letter was from the general manager of the National Bank of South Africa Limited to a new employee about to begin his career in the Wellington branch of the bank. The letter is not only exquisitely written, but also contains profound insights that would be most useful for any employee beginning a new career. I was so impressed by the letter that I have adapted it to the teaching situation below.

Dear………………… It gives me pleasure to welcome you into our service and to express the hope that the career you have chosen will be of mutual benefit to yourself and to the school. I am anxious that you should, at the outset, have the correct attitude towards your profession, and I think it will be helpful to you if I set down for your guidance the lines that I consider you should follow to make the best of your career and to become a useful member of staff.

Take care of conduct

First, you should always bear in mind that the position of teacher is one of great trust and responsibility. If a learner goes astray, he alone is affected, but if a teacher is bad, hundreds of learners will be spoilt. The teacher is entrusted with the future of the country. You will recognise, therefore, that such a position demands, in the highest degree of all members of the teaching profession, the following qualities: in-depth subject knowledge, the ability to teach it well, and being good company to all children in the school community. Your conduct inside and outside the classroom should be regulated in accordance with this trust.

Avoid slovenliness

Second, the work you are given to do in the earlier years of your employment should be looked upon as mental and intellectual training to fit you for the higher responsibilities of the profession. For this reason, you should not regard with impatience or contempt any work that seems to you unimportant and is perhaps monotonous. Each section of work is an integral part of your training, and upon the thoroughness with which you perform the subsidiary tasks depends to a great extent the success that you will achieve in the performance of the higher and more responsible duties. In particular, avoid careless and slovenly work, which would reflect discredit not only upon yourself but also upon the school and the teaching profession.

Promote pleasantness

Third, endeavour in every way to promote pleasant relations with pupils, parents and the broader community. In almost every activity of school life you will come into contact, either directly or indirectly, with the public. Always be courteous and obliging: good manners are the surest indication of a good school and family background, and many difficult situations in life are smoothed for the person who has cultivated a winning and pleasant manner. Similarly, in your relations with your colleagues, a most important factor in the running of a school is esprit de corps.Without it, much of the headmaster’s efforts to improve the quality of education and the conditions under which you work are defeated. Always be ready, when you can, to assist one of your colleagues who may be overburdened with work: not only will you be helping the general work of the school, but you will also be increasing your knowledge of the school’s system and of other work outside your own, and thus fitting yourself for superior duties.

Cultivate the spirit and the mind

Lastly, while never neglecting healthy recreation, do not make the mistake of devoting all your spare time to physical exercises. Spiritual and intellectual pursuits are quite as important as physical ones: the first are necessary for the wellbeing of the spirit, the second for the health of the mind. Nor can you hope to succeed in any walk of life without ongoing development and balance in these areas. You should, therefore, cultivate your spirit with a systematic programme that answers your deepest spiritual needs. Cultivate your mind by good reading, which will not only widen and deepen your outlook, but will give you command of language and style that will assist you acquire efficiency and fluency in all communication and correspondence. Your reading should include works directly related to giving you technical information with regard to teaching and learning and other related matters, and it should be your particular aim to gain an in-depth knowledge of your subject area. Theoretical knowledge, combined with practical experience, is the truest foundation of a successful career.

I feel sure you will appreciate the counsel I have endeavoured to give you, and that you will do your best to follow them. I shall watch your career with interest, and I am confident that if you govern yourself by the rules and advice outlined above, you can aspire with confidence to the highest posts within this school and the education field in general.

Yours faithfully,


Category: Spring 2012

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