Feature: What's 'Fire' Gotta Do With Teaching?


Like romance, teaching is all about passion. Also like romance, teaching is about allowing the 'fire' to consume and take us to a higher level. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to be consumed by this intense desire to share knowledge with our learners would definitely be able to identify with this analogy. We know that it is this 'fire' that helps us fulfil our lifelong vocation of teaching.

Yes, teaching is a vocation, not a mere profession or a half-day job. While it is undeniable that there are many who go into teaching when they have no other choice, there are also some who wish for no other job but teaching. These are the ones whose teaching 'infects' us with a burning enthusiasm and makes learning a 'contagious' experience. I am quite certain we have met at least one teacher in our lifetime who has had such an effect on us.

Where does this fire for teaching originate from? Those who come from families of teachers would probably cite their upbringing, values and early exposure to the world of teaching. The more idealistic ones would say their interest in teaching is sparked by intellectual curiosity and social consciousness. What about you? Where does your fire for teaching come from?

Having taught for the past 17 years, I have wondered why the thought of switching to another more lucrative job has never dawned on me. Writing this piece got me thinking: Could I be one of those who have been infected with this 'fire'? Personally, I do not have any grand illusions of the origin of the fire that has kept me going all these years. I reckon my interest in teaching is ignited each time a learner shows joy in learning. The sheer satisfaction of being able to simplify and personalise learning is what gives me an emotional 'high'.

Teaching is not all about telling and showing, it is a lot more than that - teaching is about searching for ways to reach out to learners through examples, illustrations and analogies that reflect the reality of their lives. Teaching is about making sure that learning means something to learners. And this is the ultimate manifestation of the fire of teaching.

When learners ask questions without feelings of insecurity, engage in lively interactions, participate actively in activities and look forward to the next class - these are, to me, clear effects of meaningful learning. Scoring A's in tests, assignments and examinations is not a guarantee of learning, as many of us would sadly agree. After all, while rote learning and meaningless drills are strategies that can produce 'A' learners, they don't necessarily set learners 'on fire'. So would it be fair to say that the fire of teaching could lead to the fire of learning?

Back to the question that forms the title of my piece - "What?s fire gotta do with teaching?" A lot. The fire of teaching makes learning alive and fun. It not only consumes the teacher to build bridges with her learners, it also sparks the desire for learning among her learners. My next question is "Would you allow your fire of teaching to spread?"

* Selina Marie Rogers is an OUM subject matter expert (SME).

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