I have been thinking about teaching and learning for a while now – perhaps because we are nearing the end of school attendance with our own children, perhaps because of visiting so many schools in the past six months but perhaps because of this picture, which arrived in my inbox courtesy of Chipasha Luchembe from the Zambians in California community.
Perhaps because once upon a time I was a teacher.
It is a formidable responsibility that you take on when you stand in front of a class of ten, twenty, thirty, fifty or one hundred children and direct their learning, impart knowledge – educate them.
Confucius, a teacher himself, placed enormous emphasis on morality, self control and respect – and on study and discipline. One of his more famous quotes relates to this: “He who learns but does not think is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”
He did not in any way mean rote learning – his teaching was defined by its questioning nature, literally. He would ask students questions, pose problems and get them to arrive at the answer. As he himself said “I only instruct the eager and enlighten the fervent. If I hold up one corner and a student cannot come back to me with the other three, I do not go on with the lesson.”
One of the blessings of being a teacher is that you are given an opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of those you teach, and likewise they can have a positive impact on your own life. It can be a rewarding, wonderful job. I remember being told of science teachers in Zimbabwe, many of whom had not been paid for months on end, travelling miles – some walking, some cycling, some in cars using up scarce diesel – to attend a Science Teachers workshop. Taking time they could ill afford in order to improve their skills in the classroom. There are many students who have a lot to thank those teachers for.
In looking up teaching in Zambia after seeing the picture that Prof Luchembe sent on I came across one of many inspiring stories. It is the story of teachers Mr. and Mrs. Maonde from Lilayi. They had both retired from teaching but began to teach children in their own home. They started with five pre-schoolers but by 2005 they had 200 pupils coming in shifts to their home to be taught.
The couple got in touch with teachers they knew in Canada and out of this an initiative called Friends for Zambia was started to raise funds to build a school in the area. The result is this.
There are now 370 pupils in the school from kindergarten to Grade 9. Some achievement. All stemming from the dedication of two inspired Zambian teachers, Simon and Lydia Maonde and two inspired Canadian teachers who had taught as volunteers in Namwala Secondary School – the school at which Simon Maonde was headmaster!
Take a look at their website here