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How to touch life in the classroom

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January 10, 2016

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How to touch life in the classroom

We, teachers, are always suspicious of innovations, and with good reasons. Many programmes have been introduced over the years as new and innovative, each one pretentious about its effectiveness. Each programme may signify an educational advance, but for the teachers it is more likely to be a replay of an old tune.

As a child Newton once posed a question in the class –‘How can you write four in five?’ The whole class gave up. The teacher sighed with disappointment. At last explained Newton, demonstrating the process -F(IV)E. The teacher smiled at the uniqueness of the explanation.

Innovations, based on belief in the magic of quantity (more teachers, more money, more services) have not lived up to their promise. What children need and what only teachers can provide is quality of instruction and equality of dignity.

The eerie silence in the classroom, the monotonous lectures, the dreary tests, the fake interest, the strict rules take joy away from the lives of students. To touch life in the classroom, here are a few procedures which can enhance the quality of life in the classroom.

WHO ASKS THE QUESTIONS?

In a conventional classroom, the prime method is contrived and illogical. Teachers, who know the subject, pose questions to children, who do not know. To undo this tedious tradition, why not reverse this absurd order? From elementary school level, children should be taught to raise questions.The search for them constitutes an integral part of studying. In the beginning the emphasis should be on the number of questions children can formulate. Later the quality of questions can be examined.
This sounds easy, but in practice is never a cakewalk. To motivate children to pose questions, the teacher may introduce a game in the initial stage. The teacher has to have infinite patience to answer the weird questions posed by the children. The most important fact is both the teacher and the student need preparation. Only the order is reversed—the teacher has to prepare to face the questions and the student has to pose relevant questions.

THE LISTENING GAME

Listening plays a pivotal role in learning. One hour, every other day, students should be engaged in a discussion of personal and social issues about which they feel strongly. One unusual rule is to be observed: Before a person has his say, he must restate the gist of the previous speaker’s words. This rule is not as simple as it sounds. It is the heart of congruent communication. It requires each speaker to focus on another’s words and feelings, to enter his frame of mind and to understand his point of view. This procedure can bring about a profound change in children and teachers. They talk less, listen more and gain in empathic understanding.

SUSPEND JUDGEMENT

A teacher’s judgmental statements impede a child’s learning. To reduce the number of such statements, each teacher is to keep a track of the number of adjectives she uses for students during one day, every week. Since the aim is to induce teachers to suspend judgements, both negative and positive evaluations are to be tallied. The tallying can be done by the teacher himself by using a tape recorder.

With this teachers will become conscious of how much their language is sprinkled with judgemental adjectives such as :- right, wrong, good, bad, smart, stupid, idiot, dumb, bright, pretty, etc.

Surprisingly,it makes the teachers understand that all the hurting words used by them to the pupils, despite their good intentions, are enough to cloud the confidence level of the children. The sarcastic tone, the harsh voice, the biting comments, the odious comparisons, the faint praise and the judgmental tone will certainly make us re-examine the quality of our communications with children.

LETTE RS OF CONSEQUENCE

To reduce children’s inner irritation, they can be asked to write a letter to their teacher about anything or anyone who angered them lately.This method helps teachers to keep in touch with the children’s feelings, to prevent explosions and to render emotional first-aid.

These personal communications have a profound impact on the students. They explore their fear of rejection, the frailty of friendship, sexual ventures, money matters, future plans of work and education, provided their notes are considered personal and their privacy is respected.

UNDERACHIEVERS AS TUTORS

Underachievers improve when they get the opportunity to tutor. A sixth-grader with reading difficulties is able to reach and teach younger children with similar troubles. He understands his students’ soft spots and is patient and compassionate. In the process of helping, the helper is helped the most. He is motivated to do his best and he himself learns to read. He also has the ennobling experience of feeling needed abnd being useful.

PAIRED LEARNING

This strategy is especially helpful to underachievers. The children are allowed to form partenerships. Two children do their homework together, take tests together and share the same marks. In this process they give up the defense of deliberate failure, which they have used to protect selfesteem. In a partnership they take risks and experience success. In paired learning, each child assumes the role of both—the teacher and learner, giver and receiver.

STUDENT INVOLVEMENT PROGRAMMMES

It’s the need of the hour that schools should recognise the students’ right to participate in the operation of the institution. A student advisory committee should be formed in the school which meets the principal every week to present him with ideas about curriculum, activities, and problems affecting student life. The principal uses these meetings to inform students on current issues and to consult with them on future plans. More active participation on the part of students is dialogue with teachers, more student panels, student lecturers and leaders. This should be encouraged.

PARENTS IN SCHOOL

Elementary schools can encourage parents to attend their children’s classes one day a month to serve as teacher’s aides. The parents witnes, first hand, the difficulties involved in teaching a large group of children. As a result parents’ attitudes towards teachers change for the better. The teachers are motivated to prepare their lessons at home, to talk less in class and to avoid unnecessary conflict.

TEACHER’S AIDES

The demands of daily life in the classroom can destroy teaching. The teachers’ effectiveness can be increased by freeing them from clerical and housekeeping tasks. All these non-instructional chores can be done by teacher’s aides such as taking attendance, opening and closing doors and windows, switching lights on and off, keeping blackboard clean, distributing and collecting workbooks, collecting Red Cross donation, checking library books, etc.

Teacher’s aides and class monitors can take care of these routine assignments satisfactorily. Some aides can tutor students individually and in small groups. They save the teacher’s time, energy and create favourable conditions for teaching and learning.

All these procedures are practical and I believe many of these are more or less implemented by the teachers. These will certainly develop a student’s sense of personal potential and improve communication between the teacher and child.

Pallishree RathPallishree Rath has been in this profession for more than a decade. During this period she got the opportunity to work in various schools around India. Though teaching was not her first preference in life, she just ventured in by chance and eventually fell in love with it. ‘I love to experiment various methods of teaching in the class rather than using the conventional way’. She loves to invent various methods of teaching grammar, writing and speaking skills. Currently she is an English teacher at Delhi Public School, Vijayawada.

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