When a flaw is not corrected, it becomes the system.
My fingers have been itching to write about this topic that has been in my head for a long time. But then, there is a reason I did not pen down my thoughts earlier. One, that I was just a parent an year back. And two, I was not aware of the pressures a teacher faces in the teaching world. So now, having been in both the worlds as a teacher and a parent, I have realized that we live in a complicated world. Education system as I see it, is skewed. Teaching norms are either those that have been followed for a long time in decades or, they are something that has been included in a board guideline and, people stick to it as if walking on a tight rope. Besides, I am appalled at the syllabus a child at a preschool level has to study. Having been a teacher for preschoolers, I have gone through the humongous challenge of helping them with writing and reading. It is not that, preschoolers are incapable. They are the most capable super humans on the planet until they are exposed to the indoctrinated norms of academics. But then, they are still small children and, you possibly cannot expect them to sit at one place and, write whatever you have been asking them to. But then, we are trained to manage children of that stage and so, we do what we ought to do. Yet, there are times I wonder, is so much of syllabus even needed at such a nascent stage, a time when such small children are supposed to learn more from observing the Nature and around, rather than from books. Well, I shall be wondering about that all my life.
Blur the lines of categories!
Now coming to the second point that bothers me to no ends is the categorization that often happens in every school (even at pre-primary level). Yes, a teacher always has ‘the favorites’. That is totally normal as, one feels respected when a student takes to you and, follows your instructions religiously. However, a good teacher has all of her children, as favorites. Suffices to say that, a teacher always spots the best, the better, the good and the average easily. But then, does the teacher cater to the needs of all the categories? is the big question of the hour! Even while you are handling a class of children below the age of 6, you will always come across the cream, the good, the average and the ‘need-to-work-hard’ categories. Many a time, lack of patience and time drives a teacher to be either impatient towards the slow ones or, more relaxed (patience levels vary from a teacher to teacher). But then, a teacher has to remember that this is what he or she is trained for. A teacher’s motive always has to be inclined towards uplifting the ‘good’, the ‘average’ and the ‘need-to-work-hard’ and leading them up to the cream layer. However, it is just not every teacher’s cup of tea to think in those lines, although that is precisely what B.Ed and other teaching courses prepare a teacher for. There are palpable reasons for it – One being the pressures from the management to follow what has been laid out as the norms to abide by, and two, the need to ‘grow’ as a teacher in the process, paying little heed to the needs of the growing children. Maybe, the categorization of students must be dissolved. For instance, if a particular child has already done well in a particular event – say debate, give the upcoming second chance to some other, who just needs a little bit of encouragement to shine. Let the usual debater be involved in some other activity (who knows it might turn out to be an addition to his talents). Every child deserves a chance in everything. Don’t you think? It is not impossible. All a school needs is an extraordinary level of gumption to try it!
The litany of complaints!
I have heard from ample sources and also, have observed parents complaining that, teachers aren’t doing their bit. Also, in some cases I have observed teachers complaining the same about parents not doing their bit. And, the ones that bear the brunt of both worlds are our children who innocently wonder, “Why?” And then I wonder, why people praise good movies like Taaren Zameen par, when they cannot take any pointer from it. Even in my class, I have observed mammothian potential in every child. Some children are good in writing. Some are good with orals. Some are good at both. And, some are averse to writing and, they just love drawing and coloring. Some just love to play! It is just that all children need not be good at one thing. And that one thing, should NEVER become the benchmark for a teacher to judge a child’s capability. I firmly believe that a teacher must focus more on the children that need help than on those who are already good at doing what they ought to do! Sadly, this is just not happening!
Do we need to assess preschoolers?
I am quite repulsed by the idea of conducting tests for preschoolers. The management often claims that it is just an assessment test and that, children wont be judged. So, my question is – If there is no assessment at all, why the need to conduct one in the first place? An interview with the child is fair enough. I have noticed schools interviewing parents too before admitting their children. Seriously? Then, why on earth is our society idolizing APJ Kalam, Thomas Alva Edison (who almost was never schooled formally), Einstein (who had dyslexia as a child) etc… These people had humble beginnings and went on to become legends whose learning and knowledge are the bulwark of all the education we have known and studied about! APJ Kalam was a ferry man’s son. And yet, he is one of the greatest inspirations of all times. His photo adorns the walls of many schools and offices. And yet, schools have the need for entrance exams. Why? They want ‘good’ students. They want ‘great’ results. They want to get ahead and, secure ‘I am the one’ place in the academic world. Of course, an illiterate fruit seller cannot dream of enrolling his highly intuitive and intelligent child in a good school because, he has never been to school. But, an educated lawyer’s child with little inclination to academics can surely reserve his right to study, by the virtue of his father’s education cum profession. (Leave aside the financial aspects as there are many who manage it too) Nothing defines hypocrisy better than this particular example.
Tuitions –THE BANE of students’ existence!
When I was a twelfth grader, I was carried away by the idea of tuitions. Why? I joined because my friends were joining it, despite the fact that my parents are excellent teachers themselves. But then, teenage does a lot of funny things to you at the time. I was no exception. Over a period of time, I realized I had taken a foolish decision by joining tuitions when, I could actually do well by myself. For me, the realization dawned late. My results were a testimony for it. For the subject that I did not take tuitions; I scored the highest in the state. And for the ones I took, I did not fare as well as I would have expected. Experience is the best teacher always. Now these days, when I observe the eleventh and twelfth graders shuttling between tuition classes, I am amused. When do they get their own constructive time window to study? Do they understand everything they study? Do they understand the practical’s and, the readings in their journals? Some questions ought to have ambiguous answers. Don’t they?
Teaching – still an underrated profession
How passionate are teachers today? I am fortunate to have known extremely passionate teachers during my growing years. But, do I find them now? Perhaps, a handful. Many take their profession of teaching seriously. But only a few are fervently passionate about successfully completing the knowledge transition. The challenge is in sustaining the fire for teaching children. And that, is surely a daunting challenge for the aspiring teachers today, considering the amount of influence technology has in the life of our children. A teacher does not have it easy any which way. Sometimes, the pressures of delivering the hundred percent result ransacks the head space of a good teacher too and often, forces him or her to pressurize the students to perform. It is here, things go from bad to worse. From the parents’ side, the fact that teachers also face undue pressures from management, is often overlooked. So many factors are interlinked and, it is quite difficult to pin down one particular stand alone reason for the meaningless competition that is invading every pocket in the country. A sad plight!
There is one last crucial point I would like to make here. A teacher has to be knowledgeable. But IMPORTANTLY, (S)HE HAS TO BE KIND. If as a teacher, you aren’t kind to your students, regardless of any age group, you are NOT fit to be a teacher. By kindness, I do not mean complacency. By kindness, I imply – being sensitive to students who take their time to bloom and to especially those who are unable to express their issues under normal circumstances. A good student is the one who finds his teacher and, understands it. But a good teacher is the one, who seeks out the student who is unable to find his place in academic world. I believe, there is a great need for schools to collectively keep the cut throat competition and profits aside and, focus more on giving every child the chance he or she deserves.