Teachers should change with times

Teachers should change with times

Being a teacher for the best part of my active life , it is but natural for me to be overwhelmed with...

Being a teacher for the best part of my active life , it is but natural for me to be overwhelmed with memories of my growth when I see Teachers’ Day being celebrated nationally or internationally , refreshing in my mind’s vision the gurus who moulded me and the students who gave me insights, making my vocation something more than a mere profession, in fact, my passion and my life’s fulfillment. While saluting all the architects of the nation’s future , while applauding all the ‘recognized’, ‘identified’ ‘honoured’ and ‘sung’ heroes, I also bow with reverence to all the ‘unsung’ ‘unrecognized’ ‘teachers’ who are missionaries, work selflessly with unswerving faith in their wards’ innate potential and absolute faith that only dissemination of knowledge can dispel the shackles of any nation. Only when our leaders and administrators take a ‘U’ turn in the procedure followed to award the honour to any teacher, only when the best teachers are identified even when they don’t ‘apply’ and declare for themselves that they may be considered for the ‘race’ will the truly worthy teachers, the humble and the self-effacing kind, be located and given the honour they deserve.

There will be many things common in the lives of all good teachers as they grow in their line. Of course, the pedagogical methods change, the expectations of the times change, the political, economic and social trends change but the responsibility of the teacher to ‘prepare’ the wards for the changing societal demands, to make a difference through the application of the highest human values, never changes. Teachers are made, not born, by the continuous interaction, experiences and chiselling they are exposed to, over decades, to generations of learners who touch their lives.
Among the privileges a teacher enjoys, I feel the power to question is an immensely potent tool. If unplanned ,unprepared , vague questions can be deterrents, well-directed questions of different kinds, addressed to the right learners at the appropriate time, can ignite their minds ,enthuse them, tease them , promote their thinking skills and draw them into the process of learning , let them get involved , participate and ‘own’ the lesson .If questions shot at the beginning of a lesson are to elicit the background information or knowledge, and thereby let the teacher plan his starting point , the questions asked while teaching are for ‘self evaluation’ of the teacher’s strategies and check if the objectives have been met .
At any stage , the goal of a question should be to motivate the learners but never to snub and curb their enthusiasm . As teaching is a ‘dynamic’ process and not mere ‘copy and paste’ or transfer of information from one book to a ‘receiver’, interaction is what the teacher must encourage identifying the potential and motivating a self-learning process. True encouragement stems not from patting but from such confidence-building, enthusing questions. All good teachers are aware of this ‘slippery zone’ and are wary. They know that all questions cannot be posed to the whole class. It becomes the primary responsibility to know the wards’ skills in advance and prepare multiple questions accordingly. All our teachers should realise this ability to question as an ‘art’, a ‘skill’ that can be used purposefully to promote ’real teaching’ through interaction, dialogue , brainstorming and sharing.
If any teacher stands tall in his community as a good teacher, it is because he has been open to his students’ approaches and learning processes. For any single student there may be just one prescribed text to be mastered in an academic year, but for a sensitive teacher, every student in every batch is like a new text which poses unknown and unexpected puzzles and reveals new dimensions in the teaching-learning process. How can such a rewarding experience ever be tedious?
If trust is the foundation of all good relationships , the cornerstone of mutual understanding and progress, it is more so in the field of education .It is won only by a teacher who is sensitive , observant and empathic. Routine lectures on values can never thaw the ice of mistrust .Syllabus completion drives with special classes on weekends and formal feedbacks on how they have understood the lesson may be misleading, maybe ‘teacher –friendly’ but never ‘student-friendly’ in the outcome. Only after my interaction in private with some of my students in Siddipet and in the other Residential schools where I worked did this essential knowledge dawn on me. So, my students groomed me, moulded me, and strengthened my passion and love for my line.
Just as we talk only of happy memories and incidents on birthdays, while bowing to Dr. Radhakrishnan, I would like to see the brighter side, trying to forget some shocking news items like how a teacher in West Bengal was caught, just one day after Teacher’s Day, for molesting a girl. I would rather see the positive side, of how a group of IT professionals in Mysore doubled up as teachers in their spare time and volunteered to guide, motivate and help underprivileged girls from a Home to realise their dreams.
As I am never tired of reiterating the vital role of teachers in nation-building, I feel sorry for any individual who thinks that teaching is a job for the inefficient. For people who feel: ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach’, my answer is that contrary to what they think, it is only teachers who truly ‘do ‘. Good teachers are the greatest achievers. They make a difference, they make better humans and their contribution or rewards can never be measured in terms of earnings saved anywhere.
When we are striving for universal literacy, I fondly recall a teacher’s answer from Larry Cuban’s 2004 book “The Blackboard and the Bottom Line: Why Schools Can’t be Businesses,” If the goods ordered are not good, a businessman can send back a consignment but can the same be applied to schools if the young pupils were the ‘consignment’? To the over-confident businessman, the teacher points out “… we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that is why it’s not a business. It’s a school!”
More than a century after the success of the ‘Satyagraha’ movement, many question its contemporary relevance. So too, there are many who see a teacher as a mere ‘brick in the wall’ and feel that learning would be better without the intervention of teachers .They feel that teachers can be done away with . Newcastle University professor Sugata Mitra won the 2013 TED Prize for experiments in self-organized learning, an alternative to traditional schooling that relies on empowering students to work together on computers with broadband access to solve their own problems…Mitra's work with students in India has gained wide attention and was the focus of a 2010 TED Talk on his "hole in the wall" experiment, showing the potential of computers to jump-start learning without any adult intervention.
However Professor Mitra said he doesn't think teachers are obsolete but suggests their roles may be changing as students increasingly have access to self-learning through computers. A teacher has now the greater responsibility of moulding better humans when technology sweeps the learners off their feet and pushes them into unwanted fields. I wish that all our teachers would be happy to adapt themselves to their new roles as facilitators with élan and let society know how indispensable they still are.
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