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What Makes a Good Teacher

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Teachers who are not perfectly calm, who do not have an endurance that never fails, and a quietude which nothing can disturb, who have no self-respect—those who are like that will get nowhere. One must be a saint and a hero to be a good teacher. One must be a great yogi to be a good teacher. One must have a perfect attitude to be able to exact a perfect attitude from the students. You cannot ask anyone to do what you don’t do yourself. That is a rule. So look at the difference between what is and what ought to be, and you will be able to estimate the extent of your failure in class.

That is all I can offer you.

And I may add, since there’s the occasion for it: we ask many students here when they grow up and know something, to teach others. There are some, I believe, who understand why; but there are also others who think it is because it is good to serve in some way or other and that teachers are needed and we are happy to have them. But I tell you—for it is a fact—that I have never asked anyone educated here to give lessons without seeing that this would be for him the best way of disciplining himself, of learning better what he is to teach and of reaching an inner perfection he would never have if he were not a teacher and had not this opportunity of disciplining himself, which is exceptionally severe. Those who succeed as teachers here—I don’t mean an outer, artificial and superficial success, but becoming truly good teachers—this means that they are capable of making an inner progress of impersonalisation, of eliminating their egoism, controlling their movements, capable of a clear-sightedness, an understanding of others and a never-failing patience.

If you go through that discipline and succeed, well, you have not wasted your time here.

And I ask all those who accept to give lessons, to accept it in that spirit. It is all very well to be kind and do some service and be useful; that is good of course, a very good thing; but it is only one aspect and perhaps the least important aspect of the problem. The most important one is that it is a Grace given to you so that you can achieve self-control, an understanding of the subject and of others which you could never have acquired but for this opportunity.

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Never forget that to be a good teacher one has to abolish in oneself all egoism.

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And to be worthy of teaching according to the supramental truth given us by Sri Aurobindo there should no longer be any ego.

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It is not so much the details of organisation as the attitude that must change.

It seems that unless the teachers themselves get above the usual intellectual level, it will be difficult for them to fulfil their duty and accomplish their task.

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The school should be an opportunity for progress for the teacher as well as for the student. Each one should have the freedom to develop freely. A method is never so well applied as when one has discovered
it oneself. Otherwise it is as boring for the teacher as for the student.

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I must tell you that if a teacher wants to be respected, he must be respectable.

Personality traits of a successful teacher

1. Complete self-control not only to the extent of not showing any anger, but remaining absolutely quiet and undisturbed under all circumstances.

2. In the matter of self-confidence, must also have a sense of the relativity of his importance.

Above all, must have the knowledge that the teacher himself must always progress if he wants his students to progress, must not remain satisfied either with what he is or with what he knows.

3. Must not have any sense of essential superiority over his students nor preference or attachment whatsoever for one or another.

4. Must know that all are equal spiritually and instead of mere tolerance must have a global comprehension or understanding.

5. “The business of both parent and teacher is to enable and to help the child to educate himself, to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practical capacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to be kneaded and pressured into form like an inert plastic material.”

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There are people who work out their role, their function, their symbol more or less well—nobody is faultless, all is mixed in this world. But he who takes his role seriously, tries to fill it as honestly as possible, may receive inspirations which enable him to play his part a little more truly than an ordinary man. If the teacher who gives marks kept in mind that he was the representative of the divine truth, if he constantly took sufficient trouble to be in tune with the divine Will as much as this is possible for him, well, that could be very useful; for the ordinary teacher acts according to his personal preferences—what he does not like, what he likes, etc.—and he belongs to the general falsehood, but if at the time of giving marks, the teacher tries sincerely to put himself in harmony with a truth deeper than his small narrow consciousness, he may serve as an intermediary of this truth and, as such, help his students to become conscious of this truth within themselves.

This is precisely one of the things that I wanted to tell you. Education is a sacerdocy, teaching is a sacerdocy, and to be at the head of a State is a sacerdocy. Then, if the person who fulfils this role aspires to fulfil it in the highest and the most true way, the general condition of the world can become much better. Unfortunately, most people never think about this at all, they fill their role somehow—not to speak of the innumerable people who work only to earn money, but in this case their activity is altogether rotten, naturally. That was my very first basis in forming the Ashram: that the work done here be an offering to the Divine.

Instead of letting oneself go in the stream of one’s nature, of one’s mood, one must constantly keep in mind this kind of feeling that one is a representative of the Supreme Knowledge, the Supreme Truth, the Supreme Law, and that one must apply it in the most honest, the most sincere way one can; then one makes great progress oneself and can make others also progress. And besides, one will be respected, there will be no more indiscipline in the class, for there is in every human being something that recognises and bows down before true greatness; even the worst criminals are capable of admiring a noble and disinterested act. Therefore when children feel in a teacher, in a school master, this deep aspiration to act according to the truth, they listen to you with an obedience which you would not get if one day you were in a good mood and the next day you were not, which is disastrous for everybody.

The Mother