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The building blocks of behavioural code

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July 16, 2018

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The building blocks  of behavioural code

It was the beginning of the new academic year and I was in Grade XI. I hoped to have a fantastic year ahead with throbbing excitement in the air, a sea of possibilities, and a fire in the belly. I knew that there was no stopping me because I was all geared up. I worked laboriously in class X to get respectable marks in Maths but I knew I was slow. I was clued that my journey after opting for Maths in class XI will be an uphill task. After a lot of rumination, I opted for PCM stream. I was working hard. As fated, Murphy’s Law shook me, clipped my wings and brought me to the real world.

I was excited about my new class, new teachers and a new time to set impressions. The school had an experienced Maths teacher with a lot of batches to her credit though her teaching style did not match the years. I worked like an ant, regularly and tirelessly to keep my notebook updated and ready for correction as and when required. But with the results of my first unit test, my teacher’s delusion was cleared. I could not complete the questions in time as I had to labour a lot for each question; I was not a natural. Resultantly, I did not score well.

My Maths teacher, as I distinctly remember, had a slouched back with the weariness of the world but she initially had a good opinion about me. I used to see a twinkle in her eyes when she used to talk to me. It was probably because she thought that I was her-kind-of-good-student. She was particularly known for her special quality of speech. Owner of a unique behaviour pattern, she had a mellifluous tone along with a harsh set of words to express herself. She could crush the best ideas in the world in a jiffy.

Well! My impression on her, of being a good student, did not last for long. With our marks for the first unit test announced, it was an unexceptional moment for me, as the marks were as expected.This event was memorable because of its inappropriate blown up reaction from my teacher. She glared at me and hurled my answer sheet like a bomb. Zooming, it came on my table, accompanied with a rebuke. The sheet hit me in the face and she labelled me as being an ‘impostor’. She was critical of my marks which she saw that day. Soon, she forgot what she experienced with me for a month. All my neat, completed and timely work faded in her memory like waves in a sea. She then decided that I was not-what-she-took-me-to-be. She spoke with bulging eyes and a heavy voice, ‘You acted like an intelligent student; such a lot of drama every day but you are just an average student.’

She left no room for dialogue; I took time to realise what had happened to her. I did not act at all; I was just an average student working hard to be better. Teachers try to keep a record of students in various ways. But how can a person blame others for their misunderstanding? Those words of dislike and her lasting grimace are still there in my mind. That day, I learnt an important lesson. I learnt that I should take responsibility for my actions and not blame others for ‘my understanding of them’, particularly, when I come across the chapters of Sequence and Series, Probability, Statistics, the words of my Maths teacher start clamouring in my mind. Honestly, speaking I am still weak in these areas of Maths.

Teachers’ have lasting impressions on the minds of students. Teachers try to make classroom teaching student-centric but for students’ teachers are the centre of their universe. I don’t blame my Maths teacher for my difficulties in learning but that day I lost both, my love and respect for her. And as I mentioned earlier it was the beginning of the year when this episode took place. It is very evident that the rest of the year was like a load on the donkey’s back. But, then I learnt to struggle and passed Grade XII with average marks.

Well! Now that I am teaching I have realised that there is no ‘learning’ in the lives of kids without love and respect for teachers. Being a student, I was a ‘vessel’ to be filled, filled by the teacher with lore and learning, courage and concepts, motivation and methods, resourcefulness and reasoning, planning and proofs. According to John Hattie’s ‘Barometer of Influences’ as per the ‘Visible Learning’ research findings ‘Teacher-Student Relationship’ has an ‘effect size’ of 0.72. It clearly lies in the ‘zone of desired effects’. John Hattie of the University of Melbourne, developed a way of quantifying various influences in a student’s life and termed the research as ‘Visible learning’. It was based on 1400 meta-analyses according to their effect size.

Hattie found that the average ‘effect size’ of all the interventions he studied was 0.40 (hinge point). Therefore, he decided to judge the success of influences relative to this ‘hinge point’, in order to find an answer to the question ‘What works best in education?’ He ranked 252 influences that are related to learning outcomes from very positive effects to very negative effects. Hattie mainly studied six areas that contribute to learning: the student, the home, the school, the curricula, the teacher, teaching-learning approaches, and the classroom.

In his influential long-term research findings, John Hattie cogitated the results of more than 80,000 studies on the effects of hundreds of interventions on the learning of 300 million pupils. He found many eye-opening facts. According to him, the aspects of schools that parents care about a lot, such as class sizes, uniforms and streaming by ability, make little or no difference to child’s learning. What really matters most is the ‘Teacher’. Other factors related to teachers having high influence includes – involvement, clarity of subject, passion, and ability to take feedback effectively.

John suggests that teachers should take more feedbacks than give. According to his Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE), staff believe that through their collective action, they can positively influence student outcomes. CTE has an effect size of 1.57 and it is the highest influencer on ‘Student Achievement’. Educators with high efficacy show greater effort and persistence. They display a willingness to try new teaching approaches, set more challenging goals, and attend more closely to the needs of students who require extra assistance. In addition, when collective efficacy is present, the staff is better equipped to foster positive behaviour in students and in raising students’ expectations of themselves by convincing them that they can do well in school.

If my Maths teacher was ready to take feedback or there was some mechanism for the students to tell teachers about how they feel about teacher’s behaviour then my school days would have been better. It would have been more purposeful and eventful and would have lead to a happier school time. Principals and teachers should welcome this suggestion of forming collaborative teams for schools. Rachael Jean Elle, Albert Bandura, Jenni Donohoo, etc. are some of the researchers who second this opinion of CTE for student achievement.

All teachers in every department think that they are ‘the greatest’- nobody can check them and that they are ‘superhuman’; because if they were human, they could make mistakes. They could get feedback and they could also correct their mistakes and improve on them. The responsibility lies with the school administration for imposing collaborative teaching techniques. The authorities should implement the method in the right spirit. A ‘risk-free growth environment’ should be created for teachers to teach and students to learn.Teachers are wrapped up in their own snuggly fitted egos. They fear losing control in class if some peer-teacher reviewed their classroom-teaching. Most teachers lack familiarity with alternative class management and assessment methods.

As the whole institution works for the betterment, learning and future of the students, they should work with the same strides. Although, there is no collaboration taught in teacher training courses and work but we should realise that we are living in a global village and so the whole education system should be based on ‘Collaboration’. Therefore, teachers in the school should collaborate. Inter-school alliances should be encouraged. Students are also in dire need of learning teamwork and cooperation.

We all know that ‘actions speak louder than words’ so is it with painting the perfect picture of inclusion and fellow-feelings with teachers when they share and work in concordance with one another for the progress of the students. Sachin and Binny Bansal’s partnership emerged as a giant in India’s e-commerce market popularly known as ‘Flipkart’. They were like-minded but would have differed in opinions and actions at times, would have given feedback to one another but either they ‘convinced or got convinced’ for the progress of the company and the greater cause.

The receiving of formal and informal ‘feedback’ is an important part of collaborative learning. Feedback could be sugar coated or critical or full-of-praise. There’s a fine line between feedback that is ‘forward corrective’ and effective. A clear, aptly worded, accurately-timed, direct and constructive feedback cuts a lot of unnecessary chase and haze. Also, being able to ‘give and receive feedback’ which helps is a simple and progressive process. Though it is much sought after but is considered to be ‘a rare and fine art’. Here, Leah Fessler’s quote is enlightening as she states that ‘Good managers give constructive criticism—but truly masterful leaders offer constructive praise.’

Only if, my Maths teacher thought differently, used different words and tone, she could have made a huge impact on me that day. There was no conflict between both of us and this is not a blame game. I was her student; ready to get myself sharpened like a pencil, she could erase my marks wherever required and could have made me realise that what’s inside me really matters. She could have been calm, considerate, and un-assumptive. She was dwelling on the past and worrying for the future. She should have built trust between the two of us by using the right words rather than being cynical.

With her mean words, it was like she pressed the ‘dislike button’ on the video of my life. But do we really need such feedback? Does someone like to know on YouTube -’I don’t like your video/ creation’ or ‘I don’t like you’? But, I am sure that everybody likes to hear ‘I like you’ or ‘I like your creation’. When you like someone, you develop a fondness for the person. You take a shine to that person and feel inclined towards them. The star YouTubers are followed by millions of followers. It makes them feel like ‘a sought-after Celebrity’. The Streamy Awards, Shorty Awards, BRITTs Awards, YouTube Ads Awards, etc. are the public appearances of the social media major leaguers. What if, the popular social networking YouTube giant popularised the button ‘SUPPORT’ or ‘HELPFUL’instead of the button ‘LIKE’? Something like ‘I support you’, ‘I support your work’ or ‘You and your work are helpful’, etc.?

The heroes of the social networking platform would have had a different mindset if the viewers would have said a million times – ‘Thank you for helping me’ rather than ‘I like/ love you’ while trying to feed their bigwig’s self-love and megalomaniac ego. Whatever the button may be, in either case, the YouTuber’s ‘Social Capital’ remains the same. What alters with the change in the button-word is the video blogger’s and the viewer’s thought process, relationship, beliefs, personality and their understanding. But how would the mindset of the YouTube luminaries change the world?

The change in mindset will make these humble personages work for society. They will strive hard to become ‘society makers’ instead of just ‘record breakers’. Popular leaders, thinkers, artists, teachers, etc. will set new milestones. They will realise the importance of working hard for the people and not for their personal votes and vogue. On YouTube, it is repeated by every channel owner today, ‘click the like button’, ‘give me a thumbs up’, etc. You don’t have to ask for praise, it comes naturally from the viewer. World cultures do not encourage egoistic attitudes of ‘Like Me’ or ‘do-this-for-me’. Instead, they inform of ‘selfless advocacy in a selfie(sh) world’. ‘Seclusion’ will do no good; instead we should practice ‘inclusion’. The world today is one big global village. We should gain wisdom from Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudeo’s words, ‘It is in inclusion and gentleness where the very process of life thrives.’

We should be more thoughtful, ready to be all-embracing, be it in a classroom or social network or the world. We should be more considerate, non-judgemental and compassionate towards others in the world. We should be limitless and stretch our support without any boundaries to each and everyone.

• John Hattie;https://visible-learning.org/2018/03/collective-teacher-efficacy-hattie/

• Jenni Donohoo;“Collective Efficacy: How Educators’ Beliefs Impact Student Learning“

• https://work.qz.com/1010784/good-managers-give-constructive-criticism-but-truly-masterful-leaders-give-constructive-praise/

I have been a fun-loving and committed facilitator for almost ten years, working with middle and high school students. Particularly, ‘seeing a smile on the face of every student’ motto makes me suitably draft my classroom instructions and plans. My double MA degrees in English and Education help me to create a relaxed atmosphere with learners and specifically ease interactions, thereby teaching ‘growth mindset’ to my students.

With my B.Ed. and MCA degrees, I love to be a technology savvy learner and a teacher. I am intrigued by the conveniences offered by Google Classrooms, and Khan Academy. With these and similar kinds of inspirations from co-teachers, magazines and my students everyday, new rays of hope fill my heart and mind to be a curious gap-filler for generations.

Having undergone various short-term courses from IGNOU and Coursera, I have realised that I cannot tell my students that sky is the limit because there is ‘curiosity’ on the Mars.

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The Progressive Teacher