“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ― William Arthur Ward
Have you seen the movie, ‘To Sir with Love’? It’s an old movie about a group of students giving tribute to their teacher, played by Sidney Poitier. The movie was quite famous in the 60s and 70s.
I am very selective when it comes to knowledge. I am even more selective when it comes to the teachers, who are imparting the knowledge. The Wise Owl always tells me, “sister, the teacher is irrelevant but what is important is the knowledge he or she is sharing.” Somehow, I beg to differ with the Wise Owl on this.
I find that chemistry between the teacher and the student is very important, at least for me. Nowadays, we have so many ‘teachers’, preaching their knowledge. I think that is the problem, ‘preaching’. I am not a fan of 'preachers'. I suppose I’m fussy and I have a very high standard of how a teacher should be. My bench-mark is Prophet Muhammad SAW himself. I realise that Prophet SAW is almost perfect and he was without fault, so it is impossible for anyone to emulate him. Truth is, I don’t expect the teachers, whether male or female to be exactly like him but at least, they should posses most of his traits.
One of the traits that I look for is humility and humbleness. If I detect an ounce of arrogance or pride in that person, then I would get put off and all my ears and eyes will shut off immediately. Talking to me then, would be futile because it would be like talking to a brick wall. The teacher can go on talking for hours on end but none of the things that were being taught will enter my memory or my head. I would actually be wasting my time there.
I am not perfect and it is not that I feel the ‘teacher’ is not good enough to teach me or that I’m high and mighty but I am a student and the last thing I want is, to acquire arrogance lessons from the teacher.
I believe that, like all things in Islam, it starts with the intention.
“Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts; and He is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing.”
Surah Al-Baqarah 2:225
Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, saying, “Verily, deeds are only with intentions. Verily, every person will get rewarded only for what they intended. Therefore, whoever emigrated for worldly reasons or for a woman, then his emigration is for that to which he has emigrated.”
[Sahih Bukhari, Book 1, Number 1]
I might be wrong but to me, a teacher, whose students does not benefit from the knowledge imparted is actually at a loss. The Wise Old man has once told me that if teacher wants the students to remember and benefit everything that was taught, then she or he must ensure their intention is right from the very beginning. They must teach for the sake of Allah SWT. They must be sincere. It must not be because of recognition or fame. They should not even a tiny dot of self-pride. When their intention is pure then the knowledge that flows from them is also pure and it will be easily absorbed by their students. Their knowledge is like a white light that floats and enters into the soul of the students.
I must say that I agree with the Old Wise man. To me, a teacher need not be a professor, to be able to teach me things. Sometimes, the best teachers are the ones without a paper qualification. Our Prophet SWT never went to university. Anas ibn Malik was one of Prophet SWT companions and he memorised and narrated many hadiths. People of old times, like Imam Shafie and Malik, used to go to the most learned scholars during their time to learn. Neither the scholars nor the students had paper qualification but they were the best teachers and students.
I have, in the past been invited by friends and acquaintance, to attend certain lecture by certain people. There were instances where I really wanted to go but was unable to but there were also instances where I knew it would be pointless for me to go. It is not because I felt that I was better than them but the truth is, I just couldn’t connect to the speaker.
I have had many teachers in the past. Some inspired me and some made me wanna run away from pronto! I find that the humblest ones were the best. They were not stingy with their knowledge and they share everything they know. All of my teacher are highly qualified but the only difference between them is, some have paper qualification, some don’t.
I am fussy when it comes to choosing teachers especially now. It is because I have very limited free time and I want the best for myself. However, what works for me, may not work for others and what does not work for me, may work for others. I need a teacher whom I’m comfortable with and who can inspire me. I have very short attention span (like my children) so it is very important to have a teacher who can keep me interested. Hey, what can I say? I’m not perfect but I still do try to find the perfect teacher……