Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018

The learning teacher: how to make one?

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June 6, 2018


The real great teacher is the one who is still learning. Kenopanishad (vedic Sanskrit text) rightly says: ‘He knows who says, I do not know’. Education is not knowledge building alone. Education in today’s sense is any act or experience which has a formative effect on the mind, character, or physical ability of an individual.

Technically speaking education is the process by which the society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another. Knowledge is abundantly available on the INTERNET. While you teach Googling you teach where and how to find information. That is knowledge. But what about the skills and the values?

That’s where artificial intelligence fails. We need a real teacher. Whatever educational gadget you provide in the class-room, no matter how advanced it is, you can never replace a human teacher. ‘The huge buildings, costly equipment, highly sophisticated class-rooms can never be more useful than a single sincere teacher’, said Dr S Radhakrishnan, the modern day Guru Vasista of our nation. A sincere teacher is the one who is dedicated to the profession and determined to take it as a life long journey.

Such a sincere teacher is not one who goes for a job and works nine to five. Only those who have stopped learning do that. A learning teacher is like a living text book. Such great teachers go above and beyond to ensure that each child is successful. Learning teachers are real innovators, communicators and educators. They are creative and smart. Learning teachers seed curiosity in children that may grow them into endearing, compassionate and charming intellectuals. Only those teachers are dedicated who are continuous learners. They are adaptive, prepared and proactive.

The learning teachers alone can set the summer set-backs, the holiday tendency of the campus, right and bring back the needed spark of learning to give the academic year a new life and spirit.

Some basic qualities of the learning teachers

  • Learning teachers are not afraid to throw away the entire lesson plans and start back with a new approach they have learnt afresh.
  • Learning teachers recognize that each school day, each school year is different. So they spend their vacation focusing on self development as a teacher.
  • Learning teachers recognize what works for one student or for one class may not work for the other. They are ready with changed teaching approach to the advancement of the individual’s strengths.
  • Learning teachers continuously read, learn from various study sources available and apply the newest research in their everyday teaching. The special quality of such teachers is that they are never satisfied, whether they have taught for one year or for one decade.
  • Updated subject knowledge is the special quality of a learning teacher. Thus, you can expect a science teacher discussing Higgs Bosons, gravity waves and PSLV – II, etc according to the age group they are addressing. A social science teacher of this same quality, opens debates, and discussions on various issues from Syria, West Bank to Demonetization, etc. A language teacher of such learning qualities will surely introduce children to magazines and discuss theatre.
  • The Learning Teachers seek out professional development opportunities and skill development. They actively participate in every work shop and be the first to respond and register feedback during seminars.
  • They subscribe to various teaching related active magazines in print or on-line. They will always be aware of the evolving, technologies in the class room.
  • The learning teachers change constantly and will never become stale.
  • They grow each day and each year. They are not the same teachers year to year.
  • The learning teachers always learn from their mistakes. They look to improve upon what has made them successful and find something new to replace what has not worked.
  • The learning teachers are able to extract the best out of every student they teach. They inspire them to become better and maximize their involvement to learn more.
  • The learning teachers are real mentors. They are the people children run to for safety. Their advice, counseling and life lessons almost always work.
  • Above all the society recognizes a school that has one or more learning teachers.

How do teachers become learning teachers

First we need to develop learning opportunities for the teachers. Teachers learn best by studying, doing and reflecting. There should be a learning kindling environment. Teachers learn very fast by collaborating with other teachers. They also learn by observing their students and their work closely. A sharing teacher’s lounge (staff room) is a learning experience. This kind of learning cannot occur in the Education College class rooms.

We should involve the teaching staff to develop team programmes under a flexible veteran faculty. Teachers get a more coherent learning experience when they teach and learn in teams. This makes a very important difference. A teacher, who has finished learning how to teach, becomes the one who learns from teaching.

Subject knowledge, should be stream lined and re-programmed in accordance with the syllabi. We should organize mini work-shops for the teachers to prepare micro-teaching and supportive materials. Teachers should be encouraged to prepare class-room displays, smart board material, etc. which involves them more in the learning process instead of just shopping for them. Vacation is the right time for that.

Creating local study groups, encouraging learning networks, sponsoring collaborative research, etc. are various ways of professional development in the campus, From school assembly to open-house – teachers’ involvement is in itself the most important learning engagement for the teachers.

A school’s readiness to change is influenced by the teachers’ learning interests. The basic determinant factor is the approach of the management. Neglecting interpersonal and psychological processes, leads teachers to behave defensively to protect themselves from innovations that might expose their inadequacies as teachers. In such an environment they strictly follow only traditional dry, shouting methods. Even walk, talk and chalk approach will soon be over. Valuing individuals as people, valuing their contribution and mentoring change, enhances a teacher’s self-esteem and builds trust. This builds self-respect and confidence through which a learning teacher is moulded.

Igor Ivanovo, the great Russian educationist, said, ‘Like the queen on a chess board, the teacher with the most moves has the most options and the greatest degree of influence’. By their new teaching strategies, by their ability to experiment with their own practice, by working through a learning cycle of activity, reflection, evaluation and review, and by self adopting a plan how to use the learning in future, the learning teacher becomes the real queen of the chess-board called the class room.

Dr ‘Ayesha’ Era Natarasan is a distinguished children’s writer, translator, science critic, science fiction writer, eminent scholar and educationist. He was born and brought up in the Trichy district of Tamil Nadu. He has post-graduate degrees in Physics, Psychology and Education Management and a Ph D in Education.

He is the Advisory Board Member, (Tamil), National Book Trust, India and is the author of 79 Books in Tamil and 12 books in English. As a dedicated teacher he has received Dr Radhakrishnan Award from the Government of Tamil Nadu in 2008.

He has been the Editor of monthly magazine ‘Puthagam Pesudhu’ (Book Talks) for nearly a decade. He writes regular columns in Tamil and English Journals and also participates in many education based programmes on TV channels.

At present he is working as the Head Master of Krishnasamy Memorial Matric Higher Secondary School, Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu.

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