Educational Journey with EPHAT MUDENDA
FOR society to be defined as ‘normal’, there are certain expectations that need to be met by every citizen. But there are also some patterns of behaviour that are expected of all people who fill certain positions in society.
These are called social roles. Now, think about the way you viewed your teachers from the elementary level to the time when you completed your education.
How much did you respect them? It is true that a teacher is supposed to assume the roles of worker, husband or wife, parent, uncle/ auntie, community club member, church member and citizen. Society’s expectations regarding desired social roles of teachers are high.
The role of these highly respectable men and women that belong to this noble profession, consists of a cluster of sub-roles, some of which are primarily concerned with their behaviour in relation to the wider community, and others that have to do with their behaviour in relation to pupils.
So, what are the social expectations that the community has of a teacher?
Just like a preacher of the word of God, a lawyer, a doctor, a national leader, a police officer or any other law enforcer, a teacher possesses a great degree of social ‘sacredness’. Society expects him or her to be a little better than other men and women.
He or she is a surrogate of the society in terms of socialising children. In this sense, therefore, teachers are expected to perform a vital role that is more similar to that of parents than that of professionals. It is a responsibility which must be extended to all children, not just to the selected few who require a specialised service.
It is in this light that these educators are regarded as simply unique, compared to other professional people, though they are public servants like any other group.
In all areas of service where teachers might find themselves within their communities, such as social clubs, developmental projects, welfare organisations, and church groupings, among others, teachers’ social roles, and their behavioural patterns in general, are always in the limelight.
A teacher is perceived as one who must at all times uphold the highest standards of morality. Parents and other members of society often expect the teacher to be a far much better model of behaviour for their children than they themselves (parents). Drinking, smoking and gambling, among others, are some of the activities that they feel teachers must never engage in, even though many (parents) find no problem exhibiting such behavioural traits. What they are interested in is to see the teacher avoid any behaviour that they think might be bad for their children.
So for society, teachers should be seen to practice personal virtues that are considered as being the ‘norm’. These include good manners, acceptable speech, responsibility, honesty, modesty, prudence, friendliness, etc. Teachers are also expected to be widely read, as pioneers in the world of ideas and knowledge.
That which they impart to their learners is regarded as nothing but the truth. Therefore, they must prove – always – that they are ‘seekers for truth’. That, at least, is what communities where they hail from expect from these men and women whose services are indispensable with regard to the socio-economic development of this nation.
In addition, society would like to see these professionals as experts with regard to children’s welfare. Their knowledge of psychology and sociology, and other related subjects done at higher institutions of learning, helps them to act as true sources of information and guidance with respect to the best methods of child rearing and proper understanding of child development. In a study on role-conflict, particularly in relation to teachers’ roles in their communities, Getzels and Guba (1955) state that some problems that teachers encounter are socio-economic in nature. For instance, teachers are expected to maintain standards of tastes and living that are sometimes out of reach in terms of salaries and allowances they receive.
Also, when it comes to their ‘citizen role’, they often face restrictions placed upon them in so far as public and private conduct is concerned. For example, they cannot actively participate in political matters.
Therefore to ask, “What is the teacher’s role in the community?” is at least – to some extent – to ask: “What are the social expectations – behavioural patterns – that society has of the teacher?”