“Singapore Teacher’s Day: September 1st.”

When I was young I thought my primary gifting was leadership. But every spiritual gifts profile test I took put teaching as my main gift. I have long accepted this to be true. (My mum, who will be 89 this year, has dementia but remembers that she was a teacher and is delighted that her son followed in her footsteps.)

What makes for a good teacher? I am sure there are many things needed for a teacher to be effective. I think two qualities are essential.

  • Teachers must know their subject.
  • Teachers must love their students.

Teachers must know their subject. This is a no-brainer. Whether it is theology or physics, the teacher must know what he or she is talking about. I believe learning is a journey of self-discovery and teachers are guides. Still, the guide must know the territory. And if the guide is passionate about the subject matter he or she is teaching, this will be infectious.

Next, teachers must love their students. Well, love may be too strong a word. At the very least, teachers must care for those they teach. Students are not mere receptacles of knowledge. They are people with their unique stories. A good teacher will try to connect the story of their subject matter with the stories of the individual students. That means the teacher must know the individual student as best as he/she can. It also means the teacher must reveal something of his or her own humanity.

I know I am idealistic. Teachers rarely teach under ideal conditions. For many, an impossible teacher-student ratio makes knowing the individual student nigh impossible. One key rule of life for teachers and for all of us: we do what we can.

But think back on the teachers that really made a difference in your life. What do you remember about them? I suspect they were people you respected because they knew their stuff. They were enthusiastic about what they were teaching. And they were able to welcome you into the world of their subject.

I also suspect that the ones you especially remember were those who did not hide their humanity. You knew something of who they were outside the classroom. And you never forget the ones who tried to know you as a person, who inspired you to be all you could be.

September 1st is Teacher’s Day in Singapore. Let me name a few who impacted me. This is a very short select list. Many more names should be here.

  • Lim Swee Tin (Standard 1)
  • Michael Quah (Form 1)
  • Lim Swee Teck (Dental school)
  • John Nolland (Regent)
  • Ward Gasque (Regent)
  • J I Packer (Regent)
  • James Houston (Regent)
  • Peter H. Davids (Regent)
  • Roy Bell (Carey)
  • Greg Ogden (Fuller)

And many more.

I thank God for each of them. I am who I am because of their investment in my life. (All mistakes are my own.) And I thank God that I too share in this high calling.

*Collage images copyright Worachai Yosthamrong, Volodymyr Chaban, and Vadim Zakirov /