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‘As a teacher, what was the saddest thing you’ve had to do?’

With more than 5,000 upvotes on Quora, this Australian teacher's answer addresses a harsh truth all educators have to face and live with.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
September 5, 2016 6:59:17 pm
#happyteachersday, happy teachers day, teachers' day 2016, happy teachers' day, teachers' day wishes and greetings, teachers' day today, indian express, indian express news A teacher’s honest post about not lying to students is heartbreaking. (Picture for representational purpose only; Source: Thinkstock Images)

If you think about it, teachers have a great responsibility. They carve their students’ dreams, mould them, correct them when they go wrong, being meticulously stern and loving with them, all at the same time. But the toughest part of a teacher’s job is — having to say the truth to absolutely innocent faces who might not actually be ready to hear it.

David Stewart, who claims to be a teacher based in Australia, responded to a question on Quora, “As a teacher, what was the saddest thing you’ve had to do?” by sharing his thoughts on why he thought it was important to not keep children away from reality, however, harsh may it be.

His answer resonated with many, and was upvoted more than 5,000 at the time of writing.

Here is what he wrote.

“I regularly have to trample all over student’s dreams and crush their ambitions utterly. I hate doing it more than anything else, but it’s my job.

For some reason people believe it’s fine to lie to kids with intellectual disabilities. They think it’s okay to tell them massive untruths because it makes them smile for a moment. And immediate, short-term happiness is all a lot of people consider when interacting with kids with intellectual disabilities.

I’ve been working in special needs education and I’ve lost count of the number of girls I have taught who honestly believe they have what it takes to be a great singer. They’re convinced that they’re just as good as anyone they see on TV or hear on the radio because that’s what people tell them. They belt out a tune and friends and relatives gush and talk about what a great voice they’ve got and how they’re better than Taylor Swift etc. And the kids believe them, because everyone says it and they have an intellectual disability so they believe what people tell them.

I’ve personally seen it happen. I’ve watched girls sing in school concerts and hit roughly half the notes they were aiming for and exhibit no sense of rhythm but generate the sort of praise that Pavarotti used to get from sycophants. People tell the student that they’ll be a great singer one day which they know is a complete and total lie.

My role as a teacher is to try and get them into employment. I try and find work experience, work placements, further education and job opportunities so they can leave school with a career path. Which means I have to ask them what they want to do for a living and they look at me with conviction and say they want to be a singer. Despite the fact that their ability is well below average, they dream of being a pop star because everyone tells them that they’re going to be the next great singer. And then I come along and talk seriously about maybe getting a job stacking shelves in a supermarket. I tell them that getting a high-school certificate is essential and they need to focus on their school work and start thinking of realistic career paths. I don’t actually tell them outright that their singing is terrible, but my job is to be the voice of reason and realism among the chorus of liars who tell them they’ll be a great singer. And I watch their dreams slowly die.

It’s not just singers. I’ve helped crush the dreams of actors, stand-up comedians and sports stars. I’ve always encouraged them to follow their love as a hobby and keep at it but if they ask me (and most do) if they have what it takes to accomplish their dream then I’d be doing them a horrible disservice if I wasn’t honest.

Nobody prepared me for that in teacher training.”

Such was the connection with what Stewart wrote, that his answer had not received even one downvote. Not just that, many even commented how endearing Stewart’s words were.


Some shared their own experiences.


While some disagreed, though they didn’t downvote.


Yet, this user’s dilemma as a teacher comes clear in his post. Because he knows, being a teacher his words are powerful enough to make or break a child’s dream.

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