Aspire to Inspire

Carolina Amoroso recommends going beyond the call of duty

Someone once told me: “the mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, the great teacher inspires.” Hoping to be the latter, I walk into the classroom with an unusual task at hand.

Even though this is no regular day, I go through the motions as per usual: I put down the pile of books which ought to aid me in the teaching of the language, I rest my coat on the back of the chair and take a seat while I wait for my students to follow suit. As they do, I find myself wondering if they will fully grasp the significance of what I am about to share with them. It is only my greatest achievement to date: their teacher is now also a published writer.

The reasons why I decide to share an otherwise purely personal matter with them are threefold. The first is, admittedly, complacency. I cannot help but feel a sense of elation as I flip through the pages and halt at the sight of my name, followed by the words I so carefully strung together.

I cannot pretend that the second reason, acceptance, is selfless either. As teachers, we know that our flaws and limitations are readily evident to the eyes that meet them on such a regular basis. With our shortcomings thus exposed, we may feel the need to prove to our students — and in occasion to ourselves as well — that we are worthy of the place we occupy.

Conversely, the third and most important reason is altruistic: inspiration. Examples of teachers who successfully manage to help students overcome fears and solve problems abound in both the cinematographic and literary world. However, real life proves to be infinitely less prolific when it comes to yielding teachers who inspire. Hoping to reverse this situation, I set out on this special mission.

I am certain that I ought to begin by reminding students that although there are no formulae that guarantee success, great undertakings can only be achieved through introspection, self-confidence, deferred gratification, hard work and lack of self-indulgence. But precisely because of the massive effort required, I am not sure that words suffice to encourage them to put this into practice. I come to the conclusion that I must also show them the fruits that tremendous effort bears. For want of a clearer example,
I produce my recently published article.

I thus show the environmentalist, the engineer, the psychologist and the fellow teacher-to-be, to name a few, why they should never settle. I tell them to dig deep and find their passion. I tell them that for every step backwards, there will be two steps forward. I tell them to raise the bar, and raise it again. I tell them to aspire to great things — they can achieve them.

Yet as I go back home, I am burdened not only by books but also by the suspicion that what I did was not enough to convey these ideas effectively. I cannot help but fear that my words were uttered, heard and forgotten within the confines of the classroom, marred by the sound of traffic, buried alongside tedious grammatical explanations, home-made definitions and countless unanswered questions. And so it is that I deliver them again, but this time with my pen as a chisel, and I carve them on these pages, where hopefully, they will not be as short-lived.

Carolina Amorosa is an English teacher in Buenos Aires, Argentina.