Few days ago, I was conducting a seminar for Chinese primary, middle and high schools English teachers. A couple of the fundamental questions that I posed to the attendees of that seminar were: “Why did you select teaching as a career? What is the most important quality that should be acquired by a teacher? I was surprised by the responses that I received from them.

Pertinent to the first question, their responses indicated that most of them didn’t select teaching as a profession. The majority thought that it was just a job that can provide them with a steady income along with long winter and summer holidays.

Few of them chose it motivated by its prestige and its respectable status in the Chinese society. The rest was driven to teaching by the nature of their majors and the careers that were available in the job market for those majors.

When I expressed my belief that teaching is a passion not a career, they argued that one can’t feel passion toward a job that is full of disappointments. When I asked them to elaborate, they mentioned the fact that most students resent being forced to attend classes. They added that they felt disappointed seeing the lack of appreciation from their students for their efforts.

Discussing the issue with some of the foreign teachers here and abroad, I discovered that they are equally divided pertinent to the question “Is teaching a career or a passion?” Those who believed that it is a career argued that most teachers don’t like their jobs and they ended up there because of their majors or the availability of jobs in the market.

They also mentioned the fact that most teachers feel burned out after few years due to the work overload and the endless efforts they have to exert to satisfy the needs of their students and keep their teaching positions.

Those who believed that teaching is a passion insisted that teachers need to be passionate enough about their jobs to be able to transcend all common obstacles in the profession in order to guide their students toward the path of the acquisition of knowledge. Otherwise, they would not be able to stand the heat, which may lead them to quit or, worse, fall victim to mental anguish.

They stated the fact that the students of nowadays are so intelligent that they can sense the attitudes of their teachers toward their careers. They need to see that the teachers are enthusiastic about enjoying the experience in order to be receptive to their teaching.

As for the second question, I was perplexed to discover that they believed that the acquisition of knowledge in relevant subjects is what distinguishes an excellent teacher from a common one.

When I asked them the following questions: “How many of you believe that they have sufficient knowledge to be considered an excellent teacher? How often do you spend time to update your knowledge?

Surprisingly, none of them believed that they possess sufficient knowledge that would categorize them as excellent teachers. They explained that they have social and family responsibilities to fulfill beside their jobs. They had no time to be familiar with the latest advances in the educational field.

They were adamant in stating that finding the balance between the responsibilities toward their jobs and those toward their families and friends is one of the most difficult obstacles that they have to deal with on a daily basis.

Asking the same question to foreign teachers, I discovered that there was a consensus that caring is the most important trait of an excellent teacher. Teachers who are fond of and care about their students will exert every possible effort to provide their students with every possible opportunity to enhance their knowledge. They will also do their best to facilitate the learning process and make it an enjoyable experience.

Opening a forum of discussion, regarding the most important attribute that a teacher should acquire, with my students, most of them agreed that they believe a caring teacher would do everything possible to help his or her students. They also stated the fact that knowledge is available to them online and in books. However, caring teachers will find the most effective means to share their knowledge with their students.

Being open-minded, knowledgeable, patient, tolerant, compassionate were attributes that students seek in their teachers.

Regardless of the differences in opinions pertinent to the teaching profession, one must make sure to be aware of its merits and shortcomings prior to embarking on a career as a teacher. Lack of passion or the acquisition of the misconception that it is just a job may lead to disastrous consequences for both the teacher and the students.

Of course, some teachers may hold different views from the ones stated in my article. I just hope that my article will open the door for a wide discussion of the issue that may lead to the evolution of the educational system in China.

Author's Bio: 

Holding an honorary professorship from China, Sava Hassan is a Canadian author, poet and educator. He had published three books and wrote numerous articles in various topics in Canada, USA and China. For a year, he was writing an advice column for a major English magazine in China. Sava, occasionally, writes articles for several Chinese English Newspapers. He won several writing awards including four from China.