Monday, October 15, 2018

Self-Directed Learning in the Classroom and Beyond


Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta is a great lesson on education. In this epic, Arjuna is the pupil whom Shri Krishna educates. He gives Arjuna no set of predefined directions but asks him to know himself and direct himself towards his duty. We all know that education is a holistic process. It is not confined to just securing elite ranks and getting high grades. It aims towards making pupils self-sufficient. Many a times we come across cases where a student gives 100% to a particular subject or concept but is unable to get desired results. The major problem students go through is shortcomings in the existing strategies and failure in developing a new approach of learning.
Problems in learning arise when students fail to assess the complexity of a concept and keep on applying the same old approach every time. The book, ‘How Learning Works’ discusses a very important principle of learning, “To become self directed learners, students must learn to access the demands of the task, evaluate their own knowledge and skills, plan their approach, monitor their progress, and adjust their strategies as needed.” Here, it is quite significant to mention Metacognition. It refers to the process of reflecting on and directing one’s own thinking. “Helping students to improve their metacognitive skills can hold enormous benefits. The benefits include not only intellectual habits that are valuable across disciplines but also more flexible and usable discipline-specific knowledge.”
From ensuring success in any field to understanding any concept, we need to first assess the task at hand. For example, students are given an assignment in writing skill, i.e., to write a short story. The teacher gives instructions as to how to proceed with the task. The purpose of the task is to enhance their creative skills. As the first step, it is imperative for the students to develop a rough framework of the story. The second step in this case would be evaluating one’s own strengths and weaknesses. But remember this should be in context to the task or the problem at hand. Here I take an example from subject of English. The students would have to then analyze their strong areas, for example, whether they have an upper hand in vocabulary or creating an original plot. In this aspect, a problem often arises that the students tend to overestimate their capabilities. As in this case some students might just cram few phrases and words and try to forcefully incorporate that into a simple storyline instead of framing an original plot. So, it is important for the students to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. If the students have a flair for original plot they should work on their grammatical skills and if they are confident about their language they should read more often to enhance their creativity.
Once the students have a plan and begin to apply strategies that implement their plan, they need to monitor their performance. Now, coming back to the example, the students will have to practice writing stories based on various question types. For example one strategy could be reading a short story and then trying to recreate it. Then they should check the difference in language and expression. Through regular practice of this strategy they could monitor their performance effectively. “Research on the effects of students’ self-monitoring activities has highlighted two important findings. First, students who monitor their own progress and try to explain to themselves what they are learning along the way generally show greater learning gains as compared to students who engage less often in self-monitoring and self-explanation activities. Second, when students are taught to ask each other a series of comprehension-monitoring questions during reading and practicing, they learn to self-monitor more often and hence learn more from what they read and write.
Research has shown that good problem solvers will try new strategies if their current strategy is not working, whereas poor problem solvers will continue to use a strategy even after it has failed (National Research Council, 2001, p.78). Similarly, good writers will evaluate their writing from their reader’s or in this case the teacher’s or examiner’s perspective and revise the parts of their work that do not convey the desired result. This is nothing but reflecting on and adjusting one’s approach as needed.
Now, the question arises that how can we apply these strategies in the classroom (source: How Learning Works):
For helping the students assess the task successfully, teachers will have to be more explicit in explaining what they seek from the students. The instructions must be given articulately and comprehensively. Teachers must also tell the students what objectives they are going to accomplish with the given assignment. Also, instead of emphasizing on what is wanted, clarify at the onset, what is not required. For instance, in the example discussed above, teachers can clearly ask the students not to portray the story as a narrative. Teachers must also check, ‘student’s understanding’ of the task. They can ask them to jot down a framework of the story before they begin. It is also very important to provide the performance criteria with the assignment. In this case you can tell the students that they would be evaluated on the basis on content, expression, fluency and accuracy.
For helping the students evaluate their strengths and weaknesses the teacher will have to provide the students with ample practice and timely feedback. Another important thing here would be providing opportunities for self assessment of assessment of the peers. This will not only increase their confidence but also help them enjoy the assignment.
To help the students plan an appropriate approach, teachers will have to encourage the students to implement a plan provided by them. Students can be given cues or an entire framework of the story to start with and later the teacher can have students create their own plan.
Teachers can follow certain simple steps to help students apply strategies and monitor their performance. They can provide simple heuristics for self correction. For example, help the students pick out the spelling errors and making them do the corrections. The students can be further guided towards self assessment and peer review or reader response. This could be done by dividing the class in pairs and asking each of them to evaluate each other’s stories.
The book emphasizes that the teachers need to show students how they themselves would approach an assignment and walk them through the various phases of their own metacognitive process. Let them hear the teacher “talk out loud” as they describe the way they would assess the task, their strengths and weaknesses, plan their approach, monitor their progress, and adjust their strategies as needed.
“A strong learning community is one that is built by self-directed learners who contribute powerfully to supporting, elevating, and empowering each other. In order to create this level of inclusion and innovation, all learners (students and teachers alike) need to know how to learn and how to collaborate effectively by taking ownership of their own contributions. Self-directed learning will always exist without our trying to force it into the curriculum, but a curriculum that illuminates and seeks intention through self-directed learning will take our communities to the transformative level.”
It is important to note here that once the approach of self direction is inculcated in the students, it will surely help them beyond the periphery of the classroom. They will be able to use the same principle while choosing their career and solving any personal problem. This approach will bring stability and poise in their personality which will further help them deal with difficult situations in life.
As mentioned somewhere above, I clearly understand, what has been suggested for the students apply to the teachers and for that matter any adult in their approach to solving problems related to any area of life. Because Math or English problem solving is real life experience of approaching to handle any issue in life and that should be the real purpose of education.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Save School Children And Education


“Education is a purposive, conscious or unconscious, psychological, sociological, scientific and philosophical process, which brings about the development of the individual to the fullest extent and also the maximum development of society in such a way that both enjoy happiness and prosperity.” This suggests that education system is dynamic and requires constant reforms, speculations and assessments on various levels across the world. 
Considering the world as a Global Village, a substantial effort was initiated in the year 2000, which is known as Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). India and China became a part of it in 2009, for the first time. Out of 74 countries which participated that year China secured the first position and India settled for 72nd rank. Hopeless and despair-ridden, India decided to withdraw and had never been a part of PISA since then. After speculating on this matter and discussing it on many levels, the present government has decided to be a part of this prestigious exam once again, which is conducted at an interval of three years. It will be conducted next in 2021, in Chandigarh. Fifteen year old students who have completed the 6 year curriculum are eligible for this exam. This is quite exciting for the students of the entire nation. It is a two hour exam comprising subjects such as Science, Mathematics and General Reading Ability. Analytical questions, based on research and experiments are asked instead of theoretical questions. The aim behind this is to test the understanding and creativity of the students. (Source: Dainik Bhaskar)
According to Mr Prempal Sharma, Former Member of NCERT Syllabus Committee, education is the foundation stone of development and progress of nations. He believes that such exams cannot be done away with as they play a significant role in analyzing our education system and determine our place on the world platform. It becomes quite important as India struggles to maintain a decent position in the recent QS World University Evaluation Rankings. India could only manage 6 positions in top 250 universities across the world.
The initiative to be a part of PISA once again, is undoubtedly appreciable as a global exam like this will motivate us to work harder and prove our worth on an International level. On one hand the government is striving hard to improve the educational scenario of our country and on the other hand there is an entire system which is draining the young minds out of their capacity to think and analyze critically. Well, I am referring to the epidemic of coaching institution which has made our education system hollow and sick. Numerous and endless efforts have been made from the primary level to the university level but situation remains pathetic. We are falling behind in terms of producing young analytical and scientific minds which have an instinctive inclination towards research and inventions. The coaching institutes are indeed “coaching” them well to fall in the rat race of securing ranks in institutions and focusing on grabbing a six digit salary package. The number of research oriented minds has steeped drastically.
Education is a systematic procedure which requires clear understanding of concepts at both primary and higher levels with a genuine increase in critical thinking and curiosity. This is the correct approach as it encourages students to solve their problems themselves using their knowledge and applying appropriate skills. Coaching institutes on the contrary train the students to cram the formulas and concepts and fail to teach their correct application as the purpose or the end they want to secure is marks and ranks. Students are not only being deprived of the ability to solve the problems through analysis, but they are also forced to do extra work. In order to acquire more enrollments these institutes start teaching the course which is a level higher for a particular class. With this approach they try to claim that they are “competitive exam oriented”. This easily lures the na├»ve students and parents. Once a child is enrolled in the institution, they make sure that the child is weighed down with excessive work so that it appears that the coaching institutes are worth the money that is being spent on them. This overburdens the child and the parents decide to sacrifice his/her school education. And those who try to balance both school and coaching are purposely over laden so that they give up on school education. Some tutors of these institutes stoop to the level of passing de-motivating comments on those students who try their best manage both school and coaching. Under extreme pressure many students are left with no choice but to leave school when they aren’t able to cope up. This hinders the holistic development of the child which is quite essential at the age he/she is in.
The menace that they are, the negative impact of these coaching institutions is quite apparent. It is surprising that the government, the administration and the lawmakers who quite enthusiastically implement and execute educational reforms; aren’t taking any steps to curb the havoc created by these institutions, in the lives of the future of our nation. If High Court can pass a decision directing CBSE that schools affiliated to this board should not give any homework to the students of up to II class, which is welcome step for saving the childhood of the children, then why can’t it take a step to put an end to the “business” of coaching institutions? Do children of age till 18 also need to develop other skills and have some time for physical and recreational activities?  Why is this parasite, which is dwindling, the very foundation of our education system, since last 20 years, being nurtured? If these institutes which are ruining the future of the kids by “training” them to cram the concepts without understanding the basics, are allowed to flourish, what would the benefit of being a part of such platforms as PISA? If creating talent and scientific aptitude were the cup of tea of these coaching institutes, India would have been flourishing in the field of research, but unfortunately this isn’t the case.
We need to understand that students need someone who can guide, motivate and explain, in accordance with the needs the child rather than broadcast mechanism that operates in a big lecture hall. A child needs a guru not a professional trainer. A guru, who understands the requirements of the subject, gives help and provide customized guidance, use diagnostic tools to pinpoint the loopholes and propose learning and practice. But most importantly our children need motivation and positive reinforcements to inculcate in them the confidence which is required to flourish in this competitive world. Can money and a lecture hall with 200 students provide all this to a child inculcating a scientific and research oriented aptitude? Are aspects like multiple intelligences and differential learning taken into consideration by these institutions which are responsible for killing critical thinking?
Though the schools and educators can play a vital role in reinforcing the importance of school education over these coaching institutes but it cannot be denied that some schools (private) might let financial profit overshadow their purpose as a school and submit to the coaching institutes, promoting dummy enrollments.
Still, I urge the teaching community to come forward and ensure that school education does not become a play thing in the hands of the coaching institutes. Even if they cannot do away with the coaching centers altogether, I make an appeal to the government and law makers to ensure that at least school students are strictly and officially prohibited to enroll in any coaching centres.
If research, inventions and critical aptitude has to flourish, the entrapment of these, profit-oriented institutions, needs to be tackled with sincere efforts and dedication. I still beam with hope and positivity as I see that there are many educators who stand united and committed to this purpose. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Importance of Mother Tongue


The mother tongue of a child is part of the personal, social and cultural identity. It brings about the reflection and learning of successful social patterns of acting and speaking. It is basically responsible for differentiating the linguistic competence. Research indicates that having a strong mother tongue leads to a much better understanding of curriculum as well as a more positive attitude towards school, so it is vital that children maintain their first language when they begin schooling in a different language.
In spite of growing evidence and parent demand, many educational systems around the world insist on exclusive use of one or sometimes several privileged languages. Some educators argue that only those countries where the student’s first language is the language of instruction are likely to achieve the goals of Education for All. Rachel Cooper states that the push for teaching in universal languages such as English has been shown to hinder children’s educational progress in developing countries.
Many education advocacy organizations are supporting the International Mother Language Day Campaign, a U.N. program focused on implementing multilingual learning. This campaign is a part of the Global Campaign for Education to ensure mother tongue education for all students. The campaign also holds governments accountable for improving mother tongue policies in schools. Governments in developing countries are resisting the campaign because there aren’t many teachers who are able to instruct in minority languages. Putting mother tongue education in place can often be a costly and time-consuming process.
However, studies show that local language policies decrease dropout rates and increase academic achievement. It is interesting to note that six “underprivileged” countries have reported success after making the switch to mother tongue education; they are Nepal, Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Rwanda. The developed countries which have prospered par excellence with the use of mother tongue are China, Russia, and France to name a few.
So, once we have established that it is significant to be well versed in our mother tongue; let’s talk about the land of diversity, India. India is a multilingual nation with two official languages i.e. Hindi and English. There are 22 officially recognized languages in India of which Hindi is the most used. The number of native Hindi speakers is about 25% of the total Indian population. However, including dialects of Hindi termed as ‘Hindi languages’, the total is around 44% of Indians. Other Indian languages are each spoken by around 10% or less of the population.
The constituent assembly of India adopted Hindi as an official language on 14 September 1949. It is a unique language. Every possible sound in the world can be written down in Hindi by simply making use of the alphabet. The beauty of this language is that its script is purely phonetic; words are pronounced exactly as they are written. (Source: TOI) Today, Hindi is prospering on International level. It is the third most spoken language in the world after Mandarin and English. Whether it is magazines or journals, movies or theatre, music or media in India; Hindi stands on a pedestal so high that no other language can imagine outshining it.
Girishwer Mishr, Vice- Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi International University, raises the concern that Hindi lags behind in our country as it is not the medium of instruction in almost all private schools and many governmental schools. It is quite unfortunate that renowned universities, like Guwahati University does not accept research papers in any language other than English. India’s neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have prolific users of Hindi. When Hindi was declared as an official language it was believed that gradually all the translations will be done in Hindi and later when all the states would agree, it will become the National Language. Years have passed since then but this never became a reality.
At the same time we have to accept the fact that we cannot do away with English as an official language. So, when it comes to education we will have to make space for it. This is actually not a bad thing in a long run but research has shown that children’s first language is the optimal language for literacy and learning throughout primary school (UNESCO, 2008). Therefore, I firmly believe that a child’s primary education should be strictly conducted with their mother tongue as the medium of instruction. From secondary school onwards both the official languages can be introduced in the curriculum explicitly.
When it comes to Hindi, the need of the time is that it should be promoted and love for it should be inculcated in our kids. Let us start with the endeavour of welcoming Hindi as an everyday ritual. Expose your kids to the stories of Mahashweta Devi, Shivani, Manu Bhandari, Mahadevi Verma, Premchand and Manto and the poems of Sumitranandan Pant, Harivansh Rai Bachhan, Subhadra Kumari and Neeraj. Bring back the culture of bed time stories and let these stories be in Hindi. Although the critics might claim that the origin of various words in various languages including English is Hindi itself but a lot of our kids are still not exposed to Hindi in its “purest” form. Even if a child gets the privilege to own a little library at home or gets books as birthday present, it is mostly in English language. Parents take pride when their kids speak in English. Everybody wants the mother tongue to flourish but no one is making any attempts. Language is pious and significant. It is quite like values, which cannot be inculcated just through formal education.
This year’s Hindi Diwas celebration at school was awe inspiring. It paid tribute to legendary Hindi poets, Neeraj and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and their revolutionary impact on Indian readers. The way the play and recitals were conducted, clearly indicated that the students were comfortable with the language and possessed great command over it. After the event, when I got a chance to interact with the students, I found out that most of the participants had a keen interest in the language. The reason was their genuine love for the language and its abundant cultural value. The Chief Guest of the event, Dr Vyas addressed the gathering of 500 spellbound students who keenly relished his words of wisdom which were poured onto them in effortless Hindi. The impact was such due to the language as Hindi undoubtedly has the soulfulness to touch hearts and students could connect with easily.
My question is that why Hindi is confined to just as a subject in schools. When I ask a Science teacher, the aim of teaching science or Mathematics teachers the aim behind teaching the subject, I get specific answers. The beauty of Hindi lies in the fact that it is a language and not a subject. Therefore, you cannot confine it to specific marks-based and career-based goals. It is unfortunate that we need ‘Hindi Diwas’ or ‘Hindi Pakhwada’ to reinforce the significance of Hindi.  I agree with Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi when he says that Hindi needs a purpose. The teachers of Hindi need to not just teach but pour the messages of Kabir and Sumitranandan pant in the hearts and souls of the students. If science is teaching the structure of atom, Hindi at the same time is teaching the power of nature on atomies. It is time to establish this connection so that the future brilliant scientist remembers the values that were inculcated in him through Hindi poetry and stories as he experiments and invents. Society isn’t structured by scientists, doctors, engineers etc. it comprises humans. Hindi makes you human; it teaches us how to live.  Hindi in itself is a celebration of humanity and we need to celebrate it every day and every moment. Here the CBSE and other educational boards and mainly NCERT should take initiative to give Hindi and other Indian languages the same respect and place as these had before. The subject has been equated with maths and science for the sake of awarding more marks to the children in the exams. The quality of the text and the question papers must be brought back what it was 20 years back. I know this is the time of data and economics (dealing with numbers only) but the values and real love for mother tongue and motherland is utmost importance. Countries like Bhutan are not very strong economically but they have for their mother tongue, their religion and their motherland. We have the culture which is considered  to be among the oldest hence must be kept intact and the key for that lies in our languages Hindi and Sanskrit.

Monday, September 3, 2018

TO THOSE WHO LEAD US OUT OF THE DARK



The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth’.”  – Plato
September 5, the birth date of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, is celebrated as Teacher's Day in India. Once, a few students asked him if they could celebrate his birthday, he replied, "Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if September 5 is observed as Teachers' Day." With this auspicious day round the corner I couldn’t stop myself from penning down my thoughts to pay my respect all great Gurus.
I remain in the company of budding minds and observe the teaching-learning process closely, on a daily basis. I have seen young men and women shape into competent and dedicated teachers with time. I see them grow each day and handle the most adverse situations nonchalantly. Teaching is not just a profession in our country but a mission to shape young minds. In our scriptures and epics, we have placed our teachers on a pedestal which is much higher than that of a king. A guru is considered to be an epitome of knowledge and patience. We have great examples of brilliant teachers who have changed the course of time with their teachings.
The first example that comes to my mind is that of Chnakya. Also known as Kautilya, he is the first famous Indian scholar. He served as a professor of political science and economics at the Takshila University. His two famous books Arthshastra and Neetishastra are considered legendary milestones in the field of economics and political governance. He believed, “Education is the best friend. An educated person is respected everywhere. Education beats the beauty and the youth.”
One of the contemporary examples of a great teacher is Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. He was a huge advocate of education as the primary driving force of personal growth. He believed that apart from holding a mere academic degree, a student should also enhance his personal skills and calibre which are utilised more in shaping an individual's career and life. He once said, “Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and future of an individual. If the people remember me as a good teacher, it will be the biggest honour for me.”
Teaching is a unique profession which does not limit itself to a classroom. A teacher is any person who has ever been a guiding light in someone’s life. I recently read about a few unique mentors in an article. They are known for being ‘unconventional’ in the field of education and are worth mentioning here.
21-year-old Babar Ali has been teaching since he was 9. At 15, he became the headmaster of his makeshift school which teaches about 300 students today and has 6 full time teachers. He says, “I believe that if you are passionate about something then you can achieve anything. Age, finances, other hurdles, they just don’t matter and eventually everything works out.”
Aditya Kumar, better known as ‘Cycle guruji’, rides about 60 to 65 km on a bicycle every day, and provides free education to children living in the slums of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. This inspiring man has been doing this since 1995. He says with enthusiasm, ““Where ever I got students, I would sit and teach — by the roadside, in parks, near slums. I had a board on the cycle, and students would just read it and stop me. I was one of them, I understood what it meant to be poor and without support.”
A primary school teacher in Malappuram district of Kerala, Abdul Mallik swims to work every day. Why? Because that is the shortest route to reach his school. His dedication is immense, “If I go by bus, it takes me three hours to cover the 12-kilometer (7.5 miles) distance. But swimming through the river is easier, faster and I reach school on time.” 
Roshni Mukherjee has an online education platform called ExamFear.com where she teaches students with the help of videos which she uploads on YouTube.
“Recently, a student messaged me that he has been following my videos for three years now, and they have helped him score well in his exams without having to join tuition classes. He has now got admission in NIT. Such examples keep me motivated.”
These inspiring examples make this profession what it is, prestigious and esteemed.
Now, let me share with you a few examples which mean a lot in this context. I got a chance to interact with many teachers and asked them about their teachers. It was like letting loose an ocean of emotions and nostalgia.
One of them poured out her experience in a reminiscent tone. She loved dancing as a little girl. Her mother wanted to support her interest but her father was against her wishes and she was often scolded and thrown out of her house for pursuing her passion. In this situation, her teacher, Neena Thakkar came to her rescue. She used to give her shelter in her house and sent her back home when things used to cool down. But when this kind of behaviour continued and the father remained adamant she strictly warned him that she would complain to the police if the little girl is mistreated again. She also gave courage to the helpless mother to protect and respect her daughter’s passion. Interestingly this teacher nevr taught her in the class. “Her support transformed my personality”, she says, as she remembers her teacher fondly. “The influence of teachers extends beyond the classroom, well into the future.”
Another teacher shared his story with a smile filled with reverence for his mentor. He owes his confidence and command and love for a foreign language(English) to his teacher. He was a hard working and brilliant student but throughout the schooling he was taught in Hindi medium. Once he reached graduation he had to pursue his education in English language. Due to lack of command over it, he often faced embarrassment and mockery. One of his teachers made sure that he worked on his pronunciation and gave extra classes to him to enhance his comfort with English language. “Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students.” He says, filled with gratitude.
One of the teachers told me that she struggled with the pronunciation of “sh” and that is why reading in English literature period became a struggle for her. She started avoiding the subject she loved. Her teacher of English language, Mrs. Solanki sensed her trouble and made it compulsory for her to read a paragraph in the class every day. Gradually, she won over her problem and today she is encouraging her students to improve their reading skills and speak with confidence. “Everyone who remembers his/her own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.”
The bond we share with our teachers cannot be confined and celebrated in one day. It is eternal. The love and respect we have for them should be expressed every day. But there is something about this day, as it approaches it brings with it a lot of memories. Let me go down the memory lane and share my experiences. My mathematics teacher Mr. Singh and English language teacher Mr. Khan possessed the panache to keep the entire class engaged. Mr. Khan dealt with the class in such a manner that we longed for his presence and earnestly waited for him every day. Mr. Singh had immaculate command on his subject and focussed on our problem areas and solved our queries in such a way that mathematics became fun with him. Their personalities exuded endless energy and made our classroom experience memorable. “Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.”
Lovable and sometimes intimidating figures, teachers present their students with important life opportunities and inspire them to discover their vocation, and motivate and guide them along the way. A teacher’s true appreciation comes with age. It makes me proud when a student gives the credit of her/his success to the teachers. It is beautiful to see the mutual respect that breathes between them.
“Too few of us understand a teacher’s value and effort while we are still students. It is when we mature that we truly admire these people and begin to recognize the positive difference they made in our lives. There comes a point where we start being thankful to all our teachers but the most memorable ones are always the ones who believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves.” I salute all the teachers who are giving their prime to enlighten the young minds.
I conclude this article with these lines by Aristotle, “Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life; those, the art of living well.”












Monday, August 20, 2018

Learn From Mistakes And Commit To Improve


 “A teachable spirit and a humbleness to admit your ignorance or your mistake will save you a lot of pain. However, if you're a person who knows it all, then you've got a lot of heavy-hearted experiences coming your way.”
With the advancement in technology and availability of all kinds of information on the internet the role of teachers have become more challenging. Many a times you,, as a teacher,  might have faced a situation in the classroom where a child is aware of a certain topic or argument as he has already gone through it on the internet( this is something we should be proud of in spite of taking it as a challenge). But this is also true that your role and importance as a teacher and guide is facing the test of modern times. It leaves almost no scope for you to commit mistakes (the same was true before also but now children have exposure to the variety of sources of both good and bad. The teacher of “today” has a huge responsibility to compete with himself/herself and indulge in serious self-analysis and self-improvement. This article aims at throwing light on the mistakes which should be avoided and how.
Lack of well-defined aims and objectives:
All teachers are professionally qualified and they know the importance of lesson plan teachers often make the mistake of taking the aims and learning objectives of a particular lesson lightly. This leads to a mediocre execution and presentation of the lesson.
They need to understand that the basis of a successful delivery of a lecture is a well planned lesson.
Being stuck in a rut:
Some teachers do not believe in evolving with time. They teach a course two or three times, feel satisfied with their lecture notes and PowerPoint slides and assignments, and don’t change a thing for the rest of their careers except maybe to update a couple of references. This brings monotony in their presentation.
Teachers need to update their methods and material with time to maintain a sense of newness in their methods and resources.
Same approach for different intelligence:
This is common mistake committed on the part of the teachers as they do not bring variety in their explanation and assessments according to the multiple intelligence present in the class.
Projects and activities catering to multiple intelligence should be prepared for every lesson so that all the students can be benefited.
Refuse to get critically analysed:
Some teachers assume that their profession gives them a position beyond criticism. They forget that regular check and scrutiny is a part and parcel of every profession. They take it personally when given a critical feedback and often tend to get offended. A class observation becomes a matter of concern for them.
They need to understand that speculation, evaluation and criticism makes one perform better in future. They should readily accept the feedback given by their seniors or even by the students.
Avoid the necessary phone call:
Some teachers avoid interacting with parents and often fail to connect with them. Such teachers don’t consider it important to discuss their child’s behavioral problems and academic issues with the parents.
They must realize that parents and teachers must work in tandem so that the children get best of both home and school. Therefore, regular interaction between parents and teachers is a must. Through this effort a child will act more responsibly.
Expect perfection:
Some teachers expect the students to be perfect everywhere. If this expectation is not met, students are often scolded and punished.
Perfection isn’t a criterion of success. Every child is different and has a different field where he/she can excel. It is the responsibility of teachers to understand this and let the child bloom at his/her own pace at his/her field of interest.
Turn class into a PPT show:
For some teachers smart education has become all about PPTs and showing videos. This disconnects a child from the teacher and the class becomes monotonous after a point of time.
PPTs and videos should just be used as teaching aids, making the process of teaching smooth and engaging. Teachers should avoid totally depending on them for explaining the entire concept.
Indulge in gossip and judgment:
It is very disappointing to observe that some teachers have the habit of indulging in gossips and rash judgments. They participate in discussions about the personal matters of their colleagues and even the students.
Teachers are supposed to be the ideals to be followed. What will a child learn from them if they involve in such actions? They should have a balanced, unbiased and non-judgmental perspective on all the matters.
Focus too much on means than end:
Whether it is a practical subject or a theoretical one, a few teachers often focus on correct answers and encourage the children to reach it instead of focusing on the concept and the methods involved. Because of such approach the very basic of real education is defeated and the children fail to develop interest in the subject due to which do not understand even the basics.
It should be the priority of the teachers to encourage the children to understand the method and procedure well. With this, the child will automatically work hard to get the correct answer, taking keen interest in the topic.
Lack of class management:
This is one of the most important issue and even if a teacher is well versed in his/her topic, if he/she doesn’t possess the flair to manage the class properly, the beauty of his/her teaching is lost. For this they must connect with the students and ensure proper physical setup and start in a manner that children get attracted to their interaction. This is often done by great teachers who understand the child psychology so well.
Fail to establish connection:
Some teachers just focus on giving lectures, dictating notes and leave. They fail to establish a rapport with their students. This leaves children without anything gained and they tend to ignore the teacher in the class because in today`s time they can get such notes from anywhere.
It is very important for teachers to make a connection with their students on an emotional level so that the students can confide in you and it becomes easier to deal with them in the changing times.
Ineffective assessments:
Some teachers limit exams to just a monotonous drill of random question and answers and label students pass or fail. Many a times the assessments lack proper division of questions based on the standard taxonomy and blue print.
It is necessary to have proper assessments so that the weak areas of the students can be diagnosed and effective remedial teaching can be implemented accordingly.
Disrespect towards students:
It is disappointing to mention that some teachers commit the blunder of casually disrespecting the students using informal language. A few of them expect students to follow their instructions without any question but they themselves often take instructions of their seniors casually. This shows sheer lack of professionalism and raises questions on their credibility.
This should be strictly avoided in any condition. Teachers are the epitome of knowledge and behavior for students and they are an asset to any school.
Being unprepared for the class:
Some teachers make the mistake of taking their daily lessons casually. They also do not follow a routine for collection of notebooks and corrections. This disorganized attitude raises questions on their merits and competence.
They should prepare and adhere to a proper unit plan as well as daily lesson plan which will make their lessons smooth and effective. Check assignment and home work on time and give effective feedback to the students so that they are excited to completing their work.
Lack of charisma and enthusiasm:
When teachers commit the above mentioned mistakes they end up losing their charisma and subsequently their enthusiasm fades away. This results in making their class boring and less effective.
To maintain this charisma, teachers need to avoid these mistakes and continue to evaluate themselves and rate themselves time to time to keep up with the changing times and increasing expectations from the teaching fraternity.
David Geurin remarked,
“Parents are sending us their very best. They are trusting us with the most valuable gift they have in the world. Every child and family deserves our best in return. Teach from your heart and offer hope through relationships, learning and growth.”
Yes, we as teachers need to grow, learn and work towards excellence leaving no stones upturned because what we carry on our shoulders is a heavy responsibility, the responsibility of shaping the future of our nation and such a responsibility leaves no scope for mistakes.
We are approaching Teachers Day (5 Sep 2018) and fondly remember great soul, a teacher and philosopher, Dr.S RadhaKrishnan and also commit our self for the cause of the future of the nation. I salute all those teachers who sacrificed their comfort for making us better human beings and also bow to those who are presently doing their best for their students despite facing many odds

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Teachers Are Keenly Observed By Students


I am very fortunate to be in a position which gives me a wonderful opportunity to interact closely with both students and teachers. School is a place where growth is inevitable and both teachers and students are its strong pillars. It is intellectually prolific and makes possible the holistic development of its students. But, a school which doesn’t cater to the growth and development of its teachers is bound to deteriorate the process of learning. Well, when we talk about growth, we do understand that growth is an exacting process which requires a lot of elements to function productively. Schools often neglect the fact that it is also important for the teachers to adapt to the changing times and adopt the methods which will rejuvenate the teaching-learning process. I am quite confident that teachers are keeping themselves abreast with the changes in the field of education; they are trying to adapt to the changing expectations and fast pacing technology. But, my focus in this article isn’t to discuss the teaching and learning methods. No, I am not going to point out the ways teaching can be improved and made more effective. I have discussed it in many of my previous articles and will discuss them in future if required but this article is not going to focus on any of that.
For me, this piece of writing is all about understanding the nuances and subtleties that we might overlook when it comes to our teachers. This might sound quite debatable but I observed that teachers as individuals are in many ways; quite similar to the students they are required to guide and teach. Well, this isn’t an easy thing to state. Teachers are emulated by students, they are often considered to be perfect; an epitome of excellence and intellect. So, do I mean otherwise? Do I mean that teachers make mistakes like students? All I am trying to explain here is that there are certain expectations that we have from our students and when students fail to meet the expectations, we take up corrective and remedial measures. Similarly, teachers are expected to follow certain codes of conduct, and rules and regulations. And the most important part is that teachers have to take extra care in fulfilling the expectations as they have to set examples at every step.
Now let us deal with these expectations and similarities between teachers and students in detail:
The students are expected to be punctual in terms of attendance, completion of class work and homework and submission of notebooks. Students are also expected to complete the homework neatly. Similarly, teachers are expected to do the corrections in time, maintain a record of the correction work for further evaluation and do the correction work properly.
The students are expected to prepare for the exams and perform well. Similarly the teachers are expected to prepare proper lesson plans and teach effectively in the class, keeping the kids engaged. They are expected to inculcate in students, love and interest for the subject. “How do you know if you are driving the right way when you are traveling somewhere new? You use the road signs and a map (although nowadays it might be SIRI or a GPS). In the world of education, your objectives for your students act as road signs to your destination. Your plan is the map. Making a plan does not suggest a lack of creativity in your curriculum but rather, gives creativity a framework in which to flourish.”
Teachers also need advice and proper counseling from time to time, like the students. Teaching and learning is a tasking process and proper motivation and encouragement is required to keep up with this process efficiently. Teachers can be kept motivated through workshops and students through proper and regular counseling. “Reflective teachers can easily get disheartened if they don’t have someone a bit experienced and wiser offering support. You are never too old or wise for a mentor. Mentors can be that voice that says, “Yes your reflections are correct,” or “No, you are off because….” and provide you with a different perspective.
A few students are often found gossiping and judging other students and indulging in bullying, which spoils their personality and harms the confidence of other students. Unfortunately, even a few teachers indulge in bad mouthing and gossiping about other teachers. This harms their image as teachers, if students get to know about it. Teachers are expected to spread positivity and encourage the students to avoid being judgmental. It is said that great people talk about ideas. This is what teachers need to practice and preach.
Students are expected to be patient in many situations as studies can cause a lot of pressure. For the students to be patient we need the teachers to be calm and composed in the toughest hours so that the students can imbibe the same. The teachers especially need to be calm while dealing with the mistakes done by students so that they can find an appropriate solution. If they shout and blame the student in such a case, the student might not learn a lesson and would resent and feel frustrated.
If we expect students to be free from prejudices and preconceived notions, teachers should also avoid them strictly. Teachers should never have any kind of preconceived notions about any child and should avoid generalizing the situation by stating that “children these days have become difficult to manage”.
Students and teachers need to step into each other’s shoes. When we look at a general classroom setting, students are often required to sit quietly and teachers are supposed to lecture incessantly. This needs to be remodeled and students should be encouraged to take charge and participate; and teachers should facilitate the learning process by being a guide. Role reversal and switching the position will help them understand each other’s problems better. “Classrooms are like an ever-evolving dynamic organism. Depending on the day, the attendance roster, and the phase of the moon, you might have to change up your plans or your schedule to accommodate your students. As they grow and change, your methods might have to as well. If your goal is to promote a curriculum or method, you will feel uncomfortable if you have to modify it. If connecting with your students is your goal, you’ll have no trouble changing it up as time moves on.
Both students and teachers are required to be innovative in their presentations. As teachers would not expect and accept a copied homework assignment, similarly the teachers must keep their teaching material authentic and original for the students to value it. “Consistency is not to be confused with “stuck.” Consistency means that you do what you say you will do, you don’t change your rules based on your mood, and your students can rely on you when they are in need. Teachers who are stuck in their outdated methods may boast consistency, when in fact it is cleverly-masked stubbornness.”
We expect our students to be aware of the current facts and basic vocabulary, to indulge in reading for pleasure and learn something new every day. Similarly, teachers should keep themselves up to date with the advancements in their subjects. “Good teachers find time in their schedule to learn themselves. Not only does it help bolster your knowledge in a certain subject matter, it also puts you in the position of student. This gives you a perspective about the learning process that you can easily forget when you’re always in teaching mode.
We expect the students to be positive and the same is the expected from the teachers. “Negative energy zaps creativity and it makes a nice breeding ground for fear of failure. Good teachers have an upbeat mood, a sense of vitality and energy, and see past momentary setbacks to the end goal. Positivity breeds creativity.”
To err is human. Mistakes are a part of our lives. They teach us life altering lessons and help us grow. When a child makes a mistake we expect the child to own up to it and make necessary amends in her/his behaviour. Similarly, if teachers commit mistakes (for example not completing an assigned duty on time); they should accept the callousness on their part and do their best to avoid it the next time. With self improvement, the mentors can chisel themselves to work for the greater good of the society.
Last but not the least, we expect students to work in groups to help each other develop. We expect them to mentor each other and share the credit as it is the best way of learning. Similarly, teachers are expected to help each other and work in teams for better results and each other’s professional and social improvement.
Keeping these expectations in mind I would like to say that the educators need to grow with the learners for a better future of the system of education. “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his/her own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”