With or without extra fanfare, World Teachers’ Day is something to celebrate

Sask Bulletin
September 30, 2020

Given the extraordinary times we are all experiencing these days due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, this year’s World Teachers’ Day will probably pass by in relative anonymity.

Particularly so when compared to the success of the previous year when thousands gathered at the Saskatchewan legislature building to celebrate the profession, while simultaneously bringing attention to some of the challenges in the public education sector.

This, however, should in no way be interpreted as a slight against teachers and the crucial role they play–arguably more so during these times as schools strive for some sort of normalcy after a prolonged six-month closure.

If there was a silver lining to the whole scenario around students learning online, it would be that at no point have parents ever had a better up-close-and-personal opportunity to see what their children’s daily learning might look like, albeit in a significantly altered environment.

Those parents who genuinely observed the digital connection between their children and teachers have in all likelihood gained a new appreciation for the role of classroom teachers in the delivery of education to their children.

So even if October 5 (World Teachers’ Day) is without the fanfare, it would still be an appropriate time for educators and parents alike to contemplate for a moment the importance of that oft-repeated phrase–celebrating the teacher and student relationship.

As is often the case, there is an extra sense of legitimacy to the words of someone who is not involved in the process as a member of the teaching profession. The words of then Grade 12 student Merah Gasmo at last year’s celebrations ring true loud and clear when she alluded to how teachers “light a fire within their students” while describing them as her own super heroes.

This eloquently delivered speech by this aspiring teacher (Gasmo) succinctly captures that critical role teachers can play as not only educators but also as inspirational mentors to their students.

Gasmo, who attended high school in Regina, summed it up perfectly when contemplating her own future by emphasizing that “I want the opportunity to support students the way my teachers have supported me.”

From my personal journalistic wanderings throughout the province, having had the privilege to interview numerous of Saskatchewan’s 13,500 teachers, I can verify the often unspoken examples of what it is that Gasmo refers to when it comes to the support factor. Often it might not even be conveyed via a conversation but simply a gesture of mutual respect.

Just as often, you witness it when having strictly off-the-record conversations with teachers. Their experiences may vary considerably just as their locales, but the common theme among the vast majority of those who have chosen teaching as their profession is how deeply they care about their students.

This is not just in the classrooms as I have witnessed numerous episodes of their genuine worry and concern for some of their more vulnerable students away from the school setting.

If you are going to be a teacher, there is no way you can approach this in a half-hearted manner. 

I’m reminded of a phrase used by Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Vice-President Samantha Becotte at the aforementioned Regina event when she spoke of how “I am mom to two young kids who are just beginning their public education, and both teachers and parents share a common interest: we all want what is best for our kids.”

That sums it up; and it is more than ample reason to take a moment to reflect on what it means to be a teacher and why their contributions should wholeheartedly be appreciated every day, but particularly on October 5. 

While it might be a global event often highlighting some of the genuine hardships teachers in other countries grapple with, it is every bit as important to celebrate the profession here in our own backyard as well.