There is no denying the fact that “Teaching is the best job in the World.” Those who get the chance to teach are indeed lucky. Teachers get a chance to work with young and enthusiastic minds. At every educational institution, teachers and students interact frequently – discussing matters related to the outside world and how they can contribute to make it a better place. However, the question here is – why are these contributions not very evident in this part of the world? This is the stage at which both teachers and students need to take a step back, introspect and outline the core purpose of their lives. This purpose must be clear and workable. Ensuring that the core purposes of both teachers and students are closely attuned to each other would require optimal collaboration between the two. Here, the onus lies more on teachers because they are the ones who shape young minds.
As teachers, the fact that our job is much more than just information dissemination needs to permeate the very air we breathe. We have to earn our place in the lives of our students – which is to be much more than an information provider, like Google (or any other search engine). This needs commitment to quality and significant effort. The internet enables students to download a sea of information practically about anything and everything in the world. While it may seem that given this situation, teachers are likely to become redundant, it is also true that as teachers, we can contribute much more than just information to our students. How can we, as teachers, strengthen our competencies to be much more than the internet?
It is time to introspect and understand our core purpose and see ourselves as someone who inspires and influences, in ways in which the World Wide Web cannot. We have to incorporate these values within our conscious and subconscious being. We have to be constantly aware of the depth of seriousness of the teaching profession. Our conduct and the way we perform our job (each day) has to be dictated by this deep understanding of our profession. There are three key elements that deserve our attention –student-teacher bond, the teaching pedagogy, and learning environment.
This is a bond as strong as a parent-child bond, yet with a different flavour. While a parent-child bond is cozy and cuddly, and therefore more emotional love, the teacher-student relationship is a “Decisional love” -a love that is intensely devoted to the well-being of the other. This love demands that a teacher be decisive all the time about the do’s and don’ts in his/her conduct with the students. Teachers could be funny, humorous, and friendly, but they should also be able to mark a clear boundary. Unfortunately, some teachers go overboard and create an illusion in the minds of students by showing them emotional love, which can be detrimental for both the parties. This disturbs the “must-have gap” between the teacher and the student. By this, I mean we have to shut our emotions down when students say, “I couldn’t do this because of (lame reasons)...” When teachers revert with a big smile and ask them not to worry, they are doing more harm than good. Such a response from the teacher can cause steady damage to the “doing spirit” of students.
Teachers are well aware that emotions have little room when it comes to taking rational decisions. The only philosophy which guides the conduct of such teachers is “You scratch my back and I will scratch yours.” Teachers need to deal with students’ non-compliance with a great deal of tact. When teachers fail to do so or deliberately do not take any action, it leads to unfortunate scuffles between teachers and students. The basic tenet of such incidents is the narrowing down of the reasonable gap between both. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that teachers must be dictators. They need to be good human beings with a core purpose which is sacred, deep, and full of soulful love. I am of the firm opinion that qualities like these are enough to communicate even to the most mischievous student of the class that “I am here for your betterment, no matter what.” Students may take time to understand this because such teachers don’t offer cozy and cuddly love which is instant and superficial, but decisional love which is sacred. Good things take time to percolate but once they do, they go deep and touch the soul. That is the moment that we as teachers are winners (real ones).
It is through such behaviour that students see a ray of hope in discussing any kind of problem or issue with such teachers while being in the institution and also after leaving it. The bond automatically becomes strong and powerful. The proof of this is when our graduates write to us “We wish to learn from you again because whatever you said is the reality we are facing. We know that we will always have your support.” There is also a sense of fulfillment when they guide their siblings towards your door for suggestions and help. Isn’t this feeling fulfilling, satisfying, and worth striving for? The key is in the balance, which is indispensable in the teacher-student bond.
We need to appreciate the fact that it is an era of “Guide on the Side NOT the Sage on the Stage.”We need to move beyond the traditional lecture method. This can be done by bringing in case studies, simulation-based teaching, real life projects, games and other activities, as part of the teaching and learning. All this requires serious preparatory work both before and during the classroom sessions. We have to train our minds to train their minds to think and take decisions (be it work or life decisions). We also need to adapt quickly to the changing environment where almost all information is available at the click of the mouse. Experiential learning is rapidly gaining popularity around the world; we cannot afford to lag behind. Our teaching pedagogy needs a paradigm shift – and soon.
The best classrooms are ones that are noisy, yet productive. Gone are the days when a classroom was teacher-centric. The priority now is – what do students want to learn? The ambience of the classroom has to be such that everyone feels comfortable asking questions, seeking clarification, putting their point across, agreements, disagreements, deliberations, etc. Students must feel free to express themselves without fear of retribution. An atmosphere of acceptance of dissent and positivity should pervade the classroom. The culture of learning and critical thinking should be infused in the air.
I would like to conclude with a beautiful quote by Clayton Christensen, “I’ve concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn’t dollars but the individual people whose lives I’ve touched.” Given this logic, teachers are a blessed lot. I can’t think of a point where it is not the responsibility of a teacher to mould the young brains towards their betterment, which would ultimately lead to better communities and a better world.
(Author is Senior Assistant Professor, Department of Management Studies, University of Kashmir (South Campus)