Fight for something you believe in

Voices - 7 November 2017

Daniel Huang (Cohort 2017) is in his first year teaching Physics at Edgewater College. Here he shares a little piece of the mindset he has adapted as part of Teach First NZ.

“Sir, would you rather be stuck on an island and die of thirst or hunger? You can only have infinite food or water.”

There was a moment of silence as four pairs of glimmering eyes stared at me eagerly.

“I’ll take the food, but the kind that contains water, like watermelons.”

“No! Sir, that’s cheating!”

“Is it? What is our big goal for this week?”

“To analyse problems critically…”

Conversations such as this are not uncommon in and out of the classroom, it is enabled by the existence of a unique and mutual relationship between teachers and
students.

Teachers in a school have a similar role to that of a general in an army, He/she has a role in the ultimate ‘war’ of education, to help every single student to reach their full potential. The general may do this on large scale by setting standards and policies, or on a smaller scale by resolving ‘skirmishes’ in the classroom. To be successful in either case, the general is to be well informed and have thoughtful strategies in place.

A teacher is also unlike a general in an army, because he/she is not the sole commander of the team. Every single member of the group is part of the team. Students are encouraged to take ownership of their own actions and not to simply follow orders. A sense of personal advancement and intrinsic motivation goes a long way in establishing positive learning environments.

Teachers are leaders of the vanguard, they do not sit back while students do all the work, yet they do not do all the work on their own. Guidance, leadership and support may be provided by teachers, but everyone has their say and we are at our strongest when we work together.

My greatest lesson with Teach First NZ is that of mindset – don’t judge books by their cover, don’t judge people by their colour. Certain features of a child are easily perceived: weary eyes, disengagement, and a lack of healthy food. These are surface level observations and tells only a small part of the story. Do you care enough to investigate deeper, to support and to build relationships of trust?

I recently had a student that presented all those outward features. But this particular weary student has a story. She works almost every night and every weekend to feed her younger brothers. Sometimes, all a person wants is to be told that they are worth something, and that you believe in them.

Behind every person is a story - do you have what it takes to discover them?