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What lives within us

The ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu said that to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands. Likewise, the ability to prevent ourselves from getting burnt out and emotionally exhausted may be in our own hands. And a key factor for anyone doing something brilliantly over a long period of time is passion.

It is passion that really drives us and encourages us to keep going. There are two questions that teachers are constantly asked: Why do you teach? and Why did you come into teaching? Some school leaders like to ask teachers to recall why they came into teaching in the first place because they want to remind teachers of the reason why they entered the vocation. However, the first question is probably more important because it asks how much passion still remains after the many years of teaching. When one enters a marathon, it could be because of a dare, a personal challenge to do well, or perhaps even the result of someone else signing up for them! But while they are actually running the race and each kilometer becomes more treacherous than the previous one, the runner starts to get physically exhausted. However, this isn’t the reason why the runner can’t complete the race. Even the fittest runners will tell you that a marathon is more mental than physical fitness. When the body starts to send signals to the mind that it can’t go on, the mind turns to the heart to get inspiration. There could have been many reasons why the runner entered the race, but the unimportant ones are naturally filtered out and the question that remains is not so much why you entered the race but why are you still running. If the runner believes that completing the race will be worth the pain, he will persevere. If the runner believes that he can complete the race, he will go on. Otherwise, there are umpteen reasons why he should stop.


Derek Redmond is one of Britain’s most celebrated 400m Olympic athletes and was in excellent physical condition when he ran during the Barcelona Olympics. He brushed aside the competition in the lead up to the semi-finals and was widely expected to reach and even win the finals. However, after the first 150m of the semi-final race, Derek’s right hamstring snapped and with it his hopes for a medal. After kneeling on the track for a few seconds, a teary Derek struggled to his feet and started hobbling forward in what went down in history as one of Olympic history’s most inspirational moments. As he fought on, his father ran down to the track. The officials protested but his father persisted. When Derek saw his father, he momentarily put his head on his father’s shoulder and cried in agony. The searing pain was enough of an excuse to stop running and he could have waited for officials to put him on a stretcher. No one would have blamed him. But Derek knew why he was running the race, so he soldiered on to finish the race and inspire millions around the world with his courage and perseverance.[1]


When a teacher is feeling jaded, it usually isn’t physical exhaustion. It may lead to physical problems, but it often starts with emotional ones. Thus when the mind reaches to the heart for inspiration, its always useful to know what inspires it. Some teachers teach because the subject really excites them. Finding out more about magnets and its various applications really excites them and they just can’t wait to dig deeper into the subject. Because they’re so excited about their subject, it rubs off on the students and they in turn are excited to learn more about the subject. Other teachers are style-oriented. They dance, sing, and perform. They are interested in the various methods they can use to excite the learner. They want each lesson to be more exciting than the previous one and focus on the methods of delivery. The third group of teachers is student-oriented. These teachers are special and should be cherished by any school leader, never to be taken for granted. They focus on the student and nothing makes them happier than seeing their students happy. They learn more about the subject and vary the methods of delivery based on what the students like. Because they’re so student-oriented, the students know how much they care and are motivated to learn.


Without understanding your students, it’s difficult to connect with them. Without connecting with them, it’s difficult to teach them anything. But without understanding yourself, it’s difficult to understand your students.

What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.

- Henry David Thoreau

[1] accessed 20 July 2017.

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