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A series in which SGI members discuss their approach to their profession

Nurturing the Future

Fred Asamoah Mireku is a principal superintendent as well as the Science/International Communications Technology coordinator and welfare officer for the Ghana Education Service in Amasaman, a town on the outskirts of Accra. Fueanglada Songmanee is a teacher at the Khongchiam Wittayakhom School in Khong Chiam District, in the southeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand.



What led you to become a teacher?

Fred: Ever since my early childhood, I've always yearned to share whatever knowledge I could get with others. I think I was born with a talent for teaching: when I was little, I used to gather my friends around me and teach them what I had learned at school. As I grew older, my interest in teaching as a profession developed, and eventually I decided to become a teacher.

Fueanglada: I was inspired by my mother, who had a deep respect for the teaching profession, and also by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, who encourages people to recognize the value of each individual. These influences eventually led me to the determination to become a teacher.

How do you view your role as an educator?

Fred: Teaching is a sacred vocation. I see my role as providing the necessary foundation upon which students will develop their lives. My own growth and development are essential for this. I need to put my heart into my job so that I can inspire my students, and I must have a sense of responsibility and compassion for their welfare. Ultimately, my role is to help students grow and awaken to their inherent potential and to the dignity of all life. I want to help them raise their self-esteem.

Fueanglada: New developments constantly affect education: societal and cultural changes, new teaching methods, changes in education management and modern media technology. All of these can have both positive and negative impacts on the students. This is why teachers have such an important role in helping students get the most out of their education.

Teaching, I think, is a really noble occupation. Teachers are in the unique position of fostering capable people who will be responsible for the future development of society, and I'm committed to being a part of this endeavor.

How do you motivate students who might not be interested in learning?

Fueanglada: I try to help them understand the concept of cause and effect so they can see how their actions today will shape the future. I try to instill a sense of purpose in my students, reminding them that they each have a unique mission in life. I also encourage them to do their "human revolution"--to make positive changes in their lives--so as to bring out their inner potential.

Fred: I make an effort to engage in dialogue with my students so that I can understand them better and do my best to be empathetic and compassionate. In these dialogues, I try to explain the advantages of learning and help make the connection between theory and practice through practical demonstrations. I also encourage group discussion and incorporate humor and fun. Above all, I try to positively influence students through my own attitude and behavior.

How do you stay motivated?

Fred: To stay motivated, especially in the teaching profession, is one of the biggest challenges, particularly when dealing with students who are not interested in learning, are rebellious or have difficulty learning. There are also organizational challenges.

I rely greatly on my daily Buddhist practice and the writings of SGI President Ikeda for support. I have been encouraged by his words: "The main thing is to be proud of what you do, to live true to yourself," and "Ultimately what matters is your intention." Also, making the effort to do extracurricular activities with the other teachers helps me stay motivated.

Fueanglada: I read SGI President Ikeda's guidance and try to apply it in my daily life, trying my utmost to maintain an undefeated spirit. No matter what happens, I am firmly determined to do my best to carry out my mission as a teacher.

Can you name three attributes that are important in a good teacher?

Fred: Through my many years of teaching, I've come to understand that teachers must have their own sense of responsibility and compassion; they must sincerely try to help their students, even at the expense of their own time. Second, it's important that teachers have empathy, always trying as far as possible to understand the students by putting themselves in their shoes. Lastly, teachers must continuously work toward their own growth and development, which itself is a committed effort to help the students grow.

Fueanglada: Teachers need to have love, compassion and care to help, support and encourage their students. They must exert themselves to the best of their ability to sincerely and impartially motivate their students to learn and to develop skills and good character. And teachers must set a good example through thought, words and actions.

How has your Buddhist practice influenced you as a teacher?

Fueanglada: My Buddhist practice has helped me see my true potential, undergo my human revolution and create bonds of friendship with others, as well as share happiness, hope and encouragement with those around me. Being a teacher enables me to demonstrate this potential fully. I also want to help each individual that I come into contact with recognize the value of human life.

Fred: Buddhism teaches us how to activate our inherent potential in order to overcome suffering and become happy, while helping others do the same. I apply Buddhist principles, to the best of my ability, to all aspects of my work as a teacher.

Buddhism teaches that all beings without exception possess the potential to be happy--to become enlightened. This has encouraged me to treat all my students with reverence, irrespective of their individual circumstances.

My Buddhist practice has also helped me realize that the influence I have on my students reaches far into the future, into eternity. It has also taught me that I am interconnected with my environment and that when I change, my environment will change.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

Fred: Receiving immediate positive feedback regarding a lesson I've delivered, or seeing a student I've taught succeed in life . . . For example, there's a former student of mine who was not serious in class. I made a particular effort to encourage him, and now he calls me occasionally to express his gratitude. Another student realized his dream of becoming a pharmacist through my guidance and encouragement.

Fueanglada: I enjoy being able to help raise capable people and contribute to the development of society. I have a profession that enables me to continuously develop my potential and be a good role model to others: what could be more rewarding than that!

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