Guru in the age of Google
Certified online courses available through MOOC, Do-it-yourself videos on any topic under the sun to high quality interactive learning content (spruced up and made alluring to grab the eyeballs!) just a click away, has taken the world of education by storm! The learners now (with access to such alternative learning resources and modes) are spoilt for choice. A good number of these learners (digital natives) use this access to further their understanding and improve their learning curve. But unfortunately not all such privileged groups of learners have the wherewithal to navigate through the complex web of information available online and harness its benefits for bettering the leaning outcome. The amount of material available can be overwhelming and one can get lost in the quicksand of information. The chance of going astray from the intended objective is huge! Even curated learning content made available for consumption (after coughing up substantial money) isn’t very helpful. And then there are a large proportion of students without either access to or resources to reap the benefits of a virtual learning environment. The concept of learn anything-anytime has expanded the possibilities hitherto unimaginable! But in our enthusiasm for tech-enabled learning we are overlooking and undermining the most important and pivotal factor required to make learning experiences wholesome and complete – the personalised touch which only a teacher can provide.
A lot has changed since the days of yore! The vestiges of the hallowed guru-shishya relationship has all but vanished with the remnants of the way of life barely surviving in traditional institutions still clinging on to the relics of the bygone era. The reverence that the guru elicited, the ultimate and unquestionable authority that he commanded and the spirit of service that he truly embodied is a far cry from the present breed of educators with a mercenary attitude that has crept in due to commercialisation of education. But there is always a silver lining and in this dismal educational scenario too not all hope is lost. There were, there are and there will continue to be a breed of people who are instrumental in bringing about the required transformation in students by virtue of being what they are-educators!
The single most important aspect in the equation is the personal connect that the teacher is able to make with the students which is very essential for not only furthering the conceptual understanding but most importantly the flowering of the child and unfolding of the inherent potential the child is innately endowed with.
A teacher can touch lives and influence minds in a positive way. The number of years spent in the company of children gives the teacher a knack of identifying the immediate intervention required at the right time to direct the ‘lost’ or confused child towards that which may appear to be elusive but reaches within the grasp with the kind of hand-holding that only a teacher sensitive to the needs of children can provide. It is very important to understand that teachers are dealing with young people who have a distinct personality of their own. They are not a sum total of their accomplishments and failures in activities that they are made to take up during the stipulated time they spend at school. They are not some random test score measured by standardized tests administered to assess their learning outcome. They are life waiting to express itself. Teachers need to tap that potential that is waiting to manifest itself in myriad ways. All that is required is one gentle nudge, an encouraging nod of approval, a few kind words and a genuine interest in what they have to say and share! These innocuous gestures make a world of difference for the child. They feel validated. It boosts their self confidence. They know there is always someone they can rely on for guidance and direction when confused. This secure feeling gives them the confidence to go after their dreams and discover their calling. A teacher when he/she becomes a friend, philosopher and guide becomes instrumental in putting the child on a trajectory of success (read accomplishments in the chosen field of activity).
A teacher performs many roles which calls for sensitivity and the willingness to go the extra mile in putting the children under one’s care at ease with the course of study, their environment, with themselves and of course the teacher herself. Only then will all the learning objectives be met and children can explore the possibilities the field of study has to offer them in terms of its real life application.
A teacher can make or break a child. It is very important that the influence that she has on the child under her tutelage is used only for the child’s good. In no way should the position of privilege have a detrimental effect on the development of the child. The teacher needs to be very conscious of her choice of words, conduct and subtle cues that send across very powerful messages. One must also be conscious not to become over familiar as it would be contrary to the intended purpose that is to channelize the child’s energies in the right direction. Children seek counsel and help only from those whom they hold in high esteem and look up to. So, one needs to draw a fine line between being approachable and being friendly. The bottom line is the teacher should be accessible when a child seeks the teacher’s help and be resourceful enough to offer the guidance the child needs and at the same time restore his confidence in independently dealing with a similar situation when it arises in the future.
What the teacher needs to do is aptly captured in the proverb ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’
And that is what a teacher essentially does!
P Ajitha is an ‘accidental’ teacher who having stumbled upon teaching by chance has stayed put by choice having found the vocation enabling as well as ennobling. She teaches English and Life Skills with occasional foray into in-house teacher training at Delhi Public School, Coimbatore but prefers to call herself a co-traveller in the journey called education she embarks with her students and peers together. Like minded teaching practitioners can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.