Towards a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society

Going Beyond the Textbook: A Philosophical and Psychological Approach

Teachers as role models

It is the onus of the teacher to be a role model to their students; someone the students can look up to. The first question we, as teachers, should ask ourselves is whether we have been able to create good students. Have we successfully managed to create a good environment for learning? No. So, are we good teachers? No, we are not. It may be so because we did not have good ones. May be our own teachers were not so great either. Hence, there is some mistake in the legacy, and, unfortunately, we tend to make the same mistake unknowingly. We are all victims of a systemic social issue.

The real teachers are actually waiting outside the classroom, as a part of the society we live in, not just in the classroom. Students learn from what they hear, what they see and what they feel. The actual possibility of transformation lies not just with the school, but also with the teachers.

Reflections from my teaching experience

There are some facts that I would like to discuss here as a part of the reflections of my teaching experience.

1) Pots made by different potters of different ideas can never be the same: We have various types of students in the classroom. Everybody is unique and different in their own way. They come from various socio-economic backgrounds. So, how can we expect them to be the same? I have learnt to be accommodative of the different learners in my classroom.

2) A student who can write well will be the one to pass—ultimate tragedy of our exam system: There are students who can read and talk well, but not write well enough. But, such a student may not qualify in the exam. That is the limitation of our examination system. When we use speaking as a tool to build society, community, and communication, it is not going to help in bringing out a student’s real talent. The exams, hence, have limited our students’ ability to express what they know. Therefore, I intend to design my assessments in a way that accommodates various styles of responses, such as notes, pictures, flow charts, graphs, etc.

3) A student’s mind is not a dustbin: Teachers try to fill the students’ mind with everything that they know. I would like to tell them to let the students decide what they want and what they do not want. Just like a seed, when given an opportunity and convenient conditions, a learner will flourish as an individual and enlighten us with his or her stories of success. Here, a teacher should use his or her power to act as a catalyst in order to bring about a positive transformation in the classroom. Hence, I intend to elicit or check a learner’s prior knowledge before probing further though inquiry.

4) If you don’t like the teacher, you don’t like the subject: This would have been true even in our case. Many times, students like a particular subject naturally. And, sometimes, they like a subject because they like the teacher who teaches it. The latter case implies that the teacher has done a decent job in creating a conducive learning environment. The teacher fails when a simple and interesting subject like language, history, or science, which was previously liked by the learner, is no more among the likes of the learner just because he dislikes the teacher. I plan to be a more amiable and approachable teacher in the coming years by making my classroom more democratic, respecting the learners, and taking note of my students’ expectations to help them set their goals for the year.

5) To conquer a student’s heart fully, teach values first and not subjects: In my class, we mostly discuss values. I try to elicit these from my students by giving them situations which makes them feel accepted and valued.

6) Most of the students in the past had come to school only because of the play ground:  The playground has always been an important attraction for the students. They come together in this space during and after school hours, play games, develop unity and the feeling of community, team spirit, etc. From their practice, they are able to remember all the rules of the games that they play. Playing helps them bond and stick together as a pack, which imparts confidence and moral support to the students. I intend to create more opportunities or make time to encourage my students to play, join them while playing, and be one among them.

7) A good teacher can always be in oscillatory motion, i.e. ice…water…vapour: The teacher should be an amalgamation of all emotions. A teacher who is always strict cannot always do good to a student. A student should be given enough freedom to try out his ideas in the classroom or any learning space. Students should be allowed to discuss and arrive at knowledge.

8) Introduce gender sensitivity at the right time: Our students come from such families where discussing about their gender and adolescence is seen as a taboo. The parents are uncomfortable to discuss with their children as to what happens to their bodies during adolescence. They are unable to validate the children’s knowledge scientifically regarding the changes that their bodies go through during adolescence. If it is discussed, it generally ends up being a mixture of facts, misconceptions, and superstitions. My students were asked to list down all the bad words that they use, and we discussed the meanings of those words. This was an eye opener for them regarding the fact how most of those foul words were related either to their reproductive systems or organs. How much longer should we hide this? Not anymore. We should make the students feel comfortable about their bodies and sexuality. I have been doing this only to the boys, since I have been working in a boys’ school. If I were a teacher of a co-educational or a girls’ school, I would have done the same exercise there as well in order to make the students aware of the changes that occur in their body, and make them learn how they can keep it clean and healthy.

9) A good teacher must be an excellent coordinator, managing all their students’ psychological needs: The head of the school, as well as teachers, should be able to empathise and understand the needs and psychology of the students. We should be able to guide them properly through their school life in order to make them responsible citizens for the future.

Teacher: Sengode Thevan. M, Bharathi GBHSS, Bahour

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