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.”

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Let Children Feel Hungry

Somebody asked Gautam Buddha, “What is poison?” Buddha answered, “Everything in your life which is available in excess, more than you actually require, is poisonous…”
A life worth living often revolves around balance. But creating balance in life is a difficult thing. With the advancement of technology, luxury and comfort have become a part of life. Parents these days try their best to provide everything to their children. They ensure that their children have every facility and comfort. Although the intention is to facilitate their growth and development in the best way possible but this often disrupts the balance of life as kids remain devoid of the understanding of austerity and necessity. Every want is fulfilled which leaves them clueless about what they actually desire. Henceforth, listlessness and aimlessness starts dwelling in their hearts. As their every want is fulfilled they never get to realize what they actually need. This aimlessness results in deterioration of discipline and it’s impossible for the mind to grow freely without discipline. Austerity teaches discipline and creates balance in life and it is exceedingly important for the parents to understand this.
Let me elaborate on this idea with a few examples.  Recently, when I was returning from a trip I observed a little girl on the plane. Her mother was continuously insisting her to eat something from the various options available. The child seemed entirely disinterested because she might have been fed properly before they boarded the plane. As she was not hungry hence she appeared to be irritated and constantly asked her mother to let her be, in a very discourteous manner. In the second incident a few kids on the train were acting in a very disrespectful and unruly manner. They lacked the basic etiquettes to sit properly and behave in front of the strangers. A child got into a fight with another and was trying to snatch away his toy. When the latter complained about it to his parents, the parents acted in an indifferent manner and seemed quite disinterested to intervene in the matter and put a hold to the ruckus created. Not only this, children were disturbing fellow passengers every now and then by jumping on their seats. The unruly behavior lasted five hours till the time train reached its destination. I wonder if parents cannot make sure that their kids act in a disciplined manner then who will. Don’t they realize that this attitude might seep into their personality and will tend to make then rebellious and boisterous in other social surroundings too. Another common problem the kids are facing these days which is killing their sense of curiosity and tendency to do hard work is the abundance of notes and material they get from the coaching centers. Their curiosity and problem solving capacity is thus shunned and they turn up depending on the material instead of finding solutions on their own. There are many children who not only go to coaching centers but also attend individual subject tuitions after that. AS a result they lose interest in the subject.
In all the three cases mentioned above the parents had given the kids overwhelming freedom and options; as a result the kids weren’t aware of their limits, social code of conduct and their talents respectively. This is the reason that kids these days have forgotten the value of austerity and are often confused while making important decisions. As they have so many options available, they never experience the pleasure of putting ardent efforts so as to achieve something. They are never actually hungry, either for food or knowledge. Therefore, they lack respect and sincerity towards the resources available with them. We often see parents complaining that they have provided their child with numerous books in various genres but they are never interested in reading. Parents don’t simply understand that the excessive availability of resources has reduced their value and now the child doesn’t feel like he never felt need of something but still got due to which he loses interest. If instead of having 20 books he had issued one book from the library for a limited time period, the value of the book would have increased manifold.
The overwhelming resources pouring in every aspect of their life have left them confused and unappreciative. The repercussions of excessiveness are over confidence and lack of self-evolvement due to which creeps in insincerity. Kids often feel that when they have everything available to them, whatever they choose is easily available. As a result they do not put much thought in important aspects of life and keep on switching their choices. This is often observed in the case of the frequent change of streams in class XI.
Hindu mythology is full of examples where excessiveness has led to downfall. Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, had exceeded his Darpa or the daringness resulting in the downfall of the golden kingdom of Lanka. In Mahabharata, Kauravas exceeded their Maan or sense of superiority or ego that resulted in the elimination of Kaurava race. King Bali was known for his Daan or giving. He exceeded this good virtue that made Lord Vishnu eliminate him and be sent to Pataal Loka, i.e. inside the earth. The Neetivaani says, “Ati Darpe hataa Lanka, Ati Maanescha Kauravah,  Ati daane Balirvadhah Ati Sarvatra Garhitam” (Too much daring resulted in the fall of Lanka, too much ego resulted in the downfall of Kauravas, too much of giving resulted in the demise of King Bali, and therefore anything in excess is bad everywhere). 
The message is clear, too much familiarity and availability of something in abundance demeans its value. Therefore, kids need to be taught the value of resources by providing them everything in moderation. It might sound difficult for parents to do but even love and concern has to be moderated otherwise it is simply taken for granted.  “Love your children, but excessive love will make you blind to the mistakes of the kids which will ruin them. King Dhritarashtra was excessively in love to his sons, and we know what happened to the Kauravas.”
So the key is to have a balance in whatever we do or want. Living simply is nothing but balance. We need to do a ‘Pareto Analysis’ to segregate the vital few from useful many. If our wants are not in excess, we will live a happy life. This also proves the golden saying, Rich is he who has less wants, not who has more money.”
There is also an Odia saying, Atiru iti”, meaning you meet your end when you cross your limit.
Kids need to be taught to feel ardent curiosity and hunger for knowledge. It is only when they are allowed to work hard for something; they will appreciate their achievements and will focus and work hard to achieve more. “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  When the kids will have limited resources, it is only then, they will be able to appreciate them and use them judiciously. Limited amount of resources will help them to differentiate between want and need, a difference they should learn really early in life.
So, parents and teachers have to be facilitators, helping the kids at the right time in just the right amount. It is time that we challenge them to explore their potential instead of serving them everything on the platter. It’s our responsibility to strike a balancing act so that the kids use their potential to the fullest and strive hard to achieve something.
Lastly, to quote Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore, It is simple to be happy, but difficult to be simple, which means that leading a simplistic lifestyle can give you happiness, but it is leading this simple lifestyle which is most challenging.”