Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Low morale of teachers

An article in one of the web magazines portrayed a very gloomy picture of the condition of the teachers in USA. As per the report, the morale of the teachers is all time low and this is proving negative to this once known noble profession - teaching. I was prompted to write this article by another incident in which I was asked an innocent question. During a program organized to felicitate the teachers who had excelled in their profession, the response of the audience was not quite up to the mark. One person asked, why there was least enthusiasm in this program whereas in a similar program yesterday there was a lot of happiness and energy. I recalled the article mentioned above and realized what was reported with reference to other country`s reference, was that also true for our country? This thought scared me because the teacher in the country of Saints and Sufis have always been given importance and were considered to be more important than God or the parents of the children they were given charge of. This forced me to read the article again and I realized what is happening in that country today would happen with us in near future. The morale of the teachers is very important for the better future of the country and the society at large. The study done shows, a large number of teachers are leaving the profession and not many university graduates are motivated to join the teaching profession. There may be many reasons for this situation but a few of them mentioned by the writer are the recent ones. The reforms introduced in early eighties of the twentieth century in which more measurable objectives were introduced opened the door for the people outside teaching community to enter in this area. The smart class rooms became more important than the teachers. The policy makers moved from human resource to software/hardware resources. The entry of the corporate and the businessmen added to the wound and the problem became more serious over a period of time. The role of a teacher was reduced to be the helper in the classrooms and the teaching learning process was taken over by the machines. The teachers who used to be the part of curricula were reduced to mere spectator to what was to be done by them. The flexibility which the teachers used to have was tightened by the requirement of achieving measurable learning objectives. This left teachers as almost unwanted entity in the life of the students. Slowly and gradually the society also started ignoring the very important role played by the teachers in the life of the students. In this age of information, knowledge was pushed to the second place.
Though we do not have any such study conducted in India but the general feeling among the people and the teaching community is no different than what has been reported from USA. Similar probably is the situation in other so called developed countries and also those developing countries that follow the developed countries blindly. In the past two three decades, the role of the teacher has been redefined in India also. There is nothing wrong in changing with time but going diametrically opposite is not good. The role of the teachers cannot be replaced by the technology as some of the countries are doing. We have been hearing in the training programs about the teachers being told (rather threatened) that change yourself otherwise robots will come to replace you. This is really humiliating for the teachers. Why should people not think that if the motivator has low self esteem  then how can he/she motivate the students? There are so many things which have been taken away from the teachers. The so called software companies claim to have produced something which can do miracle with the children. In the name of making the question paper setting and evaluation easy the teachers have been left without doing anything self. The people who have never been to the classroom direct the teachers to administer test set by them. The most unfortunate part of the entire change process has been the testing part. I have been mentioning the same frequently in some other context also that testing became more important than real learning. We should have fair idea of the progress made by the students but doing it every day does not make any sense. The children and the teachers should be given ample time to overcome the problems they might be facing. Judging the teachers only on the basis of the measurable objectives has led to the low morale state of the teachers and also the children became the tool for experimentation.
For this condition the teachers themselves are also to be held responsible. Some of them felt quite happy when a portion of their job was taken by the machines. They created a distance from their students, interacting with them to the least and never understanding them. I would put it in the form of example from physics. The Hubble`s law states that the speed of galaxies moving away from each other is directly proportional to the distance between them. As this distance was created by chance (in the name of change and reforms) but then it became a permanent feature. We know it very well that most of the problems come up due to communication gap and that is what precisely has happened. While undergoing the teachers' training we were told about the behavioral objectives to be achieved and that to me was the most important goal to be achieved by the teachers. But now evaluation at every step is eating away the life of the students and the teachers. Again let us take an example. There was a child who was not able to perform well in the examination though was always present in the school and respectful towards the teachers. One of her teachers realized that the child was not able to copy something from the board. She advised the parents to get her check up done and a problem was discovered soon after which was treated immediately. With the follow up and the treatment, the child started performing well. Interestingly for the poor result of the same child the teacher in the previous class was given a memo. What I want to emphasize here is that assessing the children and the teachers everyday or very often would not lead us to better situation. The evaluation and assessment is important but excess of everything is bad. The policy makers and the society should realize that there would be no stable learning without motivated teachers. The teachers should also sit and realize, what made them less relevant in the life of their students. We should do away with the desire of quantity and try to focus on quality of learning. The use of technology is important but that should not drive the people towards depression. The policymakers and the government should take initiative to bring back the glory of teaching profession. Most important role in this regard can be played by the teachers themselves. We know that any society will flourish if there are good, committed and motivated teachers around. The teachers’ who sacrifice for the cause of their students. The civil society should also remember that no technology would have been available if there were no human teachers to guide those students. Let us try that our teachers do not lose their morale and remain fully prepared and motivated to achieve the goals set for the betterment of the children and the nation.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Technology and Children

The parents, in today`s time are very much concerned about the progress of their children and all of them work hard for the same. They provide all possible help so that the children can get best of the ranks in the school and their name can be taken with pride in the society. But in many a cases this has been observed that if the children keep doing all right the parents do not bother to see what is the learning taking place. They would even not bother about the behavioral issues of the children. If we do not consider the metros and pay attention to the semi urban and rural area where the mothers may not be much educated and the fathers dominate the family, there the situation is more serious. The mother at times, hides the problems of the child from the father because she does not want him to get angry with the child and scold him/her. Also, many fathers have long hours job and they come back late at home and by that time either the children go to sleep or might be studying in their rooms. In smaller places the parents are still not comfortable with the use of internet. They feel that if the children use laptop/computer then they must be involved in something negative and they demand that the schools should not be giving any work which requires the use of internet. Ironically, this is not discussed during the course of the year but after the result is declared and the child might not have performed well, all the queries come into existence. In many a cases, when questioned about their not sharing the same earlier, the answer given is that they did not have time. Very recently a parent asked the teacher the same question and told him that their child was wasting a lot of time on computers  because of the work given by the teachers and hence could not perform well in the examination. When he was asked why he did not check what the child was doing, his reply was that he did not have time to check that. I agree that in some cases the parents may not be able to give enough time to the need of their children, but to blame somebody else for the problem is not correct. The worst thing is that the child does not get benefited at all. In such situations, the mothers usually remain silent though they might have known about the fluctuating performance of the child through the year.
Again there is nothing wrong in asking the teacher but should it be after the result has been declared or the same should have been discussed earlier because the child might have been spending a lot of time using computers. Furthermore, the use of computer or net is not always bad because the kind of information and support which is available on net is quite a help. The speed with which the information is available is time saving and the saved time can be used by the children in some additional things. Here, I would also propose that right in the beginning of the session the parent and teacher must meet and evolve some do’s and don’ts for the child and ensure that they are followed throughout the year. From the same platform, the teacher can also convey about the assignments given online and the duration of net usage required in totality to complete the school assignments or projects.
The concept of collation government is much into fashion these days, hence, the parents, teachers and children can collimate to step into the gizmo world and adopt the rapid changes happening around. The juxtaposition of ideas must take place here so as to device such a program which is flexible and not as fixed as to cause anxiety to the child to complete his task using technology (on laptop, I pad or tablet). However, the teacher’s responsibility increases at this stage to plan out the number of hours he/she expects the students to sit and browse about relevant and related topics on the net. The same should then be conveyed to the parents, in the parent teacher meetings suggesting them to keep a close vigil on their children and check them the moment they exceed the duration. This will not only curb their habit of violating net usage but also control the voyeuristic tendencies in teenagers. The boon and bane of technology have to be discussed with the children candidly, lest they should get trapped in the addictive whirl of gadget quagmire.
I raised this issue to suggest and counsel parents that their focus should be that the children not only manage to pass the examination but also pass with promising results. To qualify an examination is important but doing the same without learning may not be of much use. I wrote a few years back that though the parents and teachers have the interest of the child in their mind and both want the child to perform well, then why should there be trust deficit. Why should parents and the teachers not work in tandem? Blaming each other at the end of the session would not yield any good result. Sometimes parents ask that they were not ever informed by the school in writing. Right, but if the parents and the schools were in contact and discussed the progress of the child during the year then where is the need of giving anything in writing. Should the school be safeguarding itself from any litigation in future by putting things in black and white? This appears to be an appropriate step but in this trust and faith which will help the child perform seems to be lost somewhere.
Moreover, in all cases the mother and father should also discuss about the problems faced by their child or if the child was going a wrong way due to some reasons. The mother should share her observation with the father of the child, if they observe any abnormal behavior in the child they must try to sort it out at the earliest with mutual understanding. The same should be communicated to the teachers concerned so all can work in a manner that the child is brought back to the right track. As there is no use crying over spilt milk. Hence, much before the situation reaches to an irreversible condition, it should be acted upon. Technology is here to stay. People need to change their perspective and have to live in a dynamic state rather than a static one. Just like the food choices differ in different seasons, we need to be accustomed to the prolific usage of technology. Today, even a child of age two or three years can handle a mobile so confidently that leaves the family members bewildered, then why can’t  the matured people make  judicious use of the same. Children of today are actually born in the digital world and grow with it, they feel lost without it as they are techno friendly. Of course, the misuse or overuse of technology in any case should be avoided, yet its realms must be explored. Please remember, the future is of e-learning through tablets and laptops, and it cannot be undone. Therefore, the wisdom is to embrace it rather than curse it.  As for the approach of children, all the three stakeholders, that is, the parents, teachers and children themselves have to follow a strict protocol of supervising, guiding and using technology respectively. The case which I mentioned above is not an isolated one and need to be seen a wider perspective.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Deluge of dilemma

The examination of classes X and XII of the public boards of the country are either over or will be over in the next few days. The students who will be moving to class XI are concerned about the selection of the subjects and the ones who will complete their schooling will be appearing in different competitive examinations and applying to different universities and colleges all over the world. There will be serious discussions in the family and the relatives will also find some time to contribute their views for the future of the children. In this process, most of the times, the most important voice, is lost and goes unheard or is paid no attention. Many children are also not able to think rationally but they definitely know more than anybody else in which stream they are comfortable and can justify their preference. I have always been wondering why do the parents get panic-stricken at this juncture and do not realise that all subjects are good and all areas of work require skilled people and the one they will enjoy being involved in. The world is changing fast and so is the relevance of different subjects and jobs. Whatever we say about technology this is here and will continue and prosper further so we should ensure that our children are well versed with that so that in future they do not feel left behind because of lack of exposure in this field. This seems to be universal to me but the subjects of study and the kind of future the child will be more interested in should be left to the child. We, as teachers and parents can extend our advice but that should be advice only and not imposition of our views or ideas on the children. We should ensure that our children get values and they become hard working but should allow them to do the work of their choice. If we do not allow our young minds to pursue their goals and realise their dreams then we shall do a lot of harm to the wonderful creation of Almighty. This would push somebody to become an ordinary achiever whereas he/she might be capable of becoming world leader in one particular field. I was moved to share my thoughts on this particular topic due to one incident which took place very recently with one of my very dear students. I must say that this is not an isolated incident. This happens with many children every year in many families in India. Even the so called very concerned parents become so much over concerned that they tend to play with the future of their children by forcing them to do something which is not of the choice of their children. 
The case under discussion has really disturbed me because I know the child so well and I am sure that if he is allowed to do what he dreams he will show this world a direction in the field which he intends to work. I would try my level best to hide the identity of the child because the parents may not feel very comfortable with that. This child could not get admission in the most sought after college of the country and due to which was forced by the parents to join a college and take up the subjects of their choice because they did not want him to go very far from them. The child was obedient and respects the parents and their very views. Unfortunately, in that college he did not get what he wanted. He is not happy with the kind of studies and the subjects he is forced to study (interestingly, he still got third rank in the course.  He tried his luck to get admission in the most reputed college of the world but could not get that also, though he has been offered by some other very reputed universities with the subjects he is very much interested to pursue). He shared the same with his parents and expressed his desire to join one of these universities. The parents straightway said no and asked him to continue in the same college where he was admitted last year. The student was not very happy the way the parents responded to his desire. One day he came to meet his teachers and found time to come and meet me also. I heard him and realised that we were chartering his enthusiasm to be killed and when he sought my advice, I immediately told him to join the University of his Choice (because he was not happy with what he is doing presently). He was quite comfortable with that and told that if possible he would like his parents to meet me in this regard. After two or three days I got a mail from him that his parents were not allowing him go there. Realising that the parents might be having some very genuine reason of saying ‘no’ I told the child to respect their decision and do his level best in the subjects and the college he is studying. I really meant it when I wrote that the parent’s point of view should be respected because I always felt that they can never do anything against the interest of their children.
After a few days the child wrote back to me and put some difficult questions to me which I find complex to answer and that is why I thought of sharing this with all of you. The problem is that they not only declined to his request but used wrong statements for him which demeans him like anything. They passed comments on his not getting admission in the best college of the country and now that he was not able to qualify for the best college. The young man is still very calm and do not say anything against his parents and is very respectful while raising an important issue. His question is that, it is very good to respect parents but who will teach the parents that they also need to understand their children well and respect their views also. In this the parents want the child to look after the family business only. His question is that, does he not have any freedom to realise his dream. The important point to note down is, in this situation also the child is very much concerned about the parents and the family but wants to do something different which will help him to do something new for the world population. As I know this child he is very honest, hard working, have concern for others and is clear about what is to be done and what not. But he got confused and caught between his respect towards his parents and his dream to do something different of his choice and penchant. His question is how to balance between the parents` wish and his dreams.
 I ask your views on this. Kindly respond so that it can help many children who face this everyday and every year.