Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017

Twelve years of The Teacher Foundation

Not a Dime a Dozen

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August 26, 2014

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A very long time ago, a young graduate on her first day at a teacher training college in Delhi University, was told by the Dean – “Those who can do, those who can’t Teach!” What the Dean said was of course in jest, quoting the playwright Bernard Shaw at an orientation for the newly enrolled B.Ed Students.

That young graduate was me and the quote has stayed with me as a warning of what, as a teacher, I must resolve not to become – someone who can’t or worse still, who won’t!
Several years later I encountered a more uplifting version of the infamous quote ‘those who can teach, those who can’t do something less significant!’ And that resonated so much better with my long satisfying years in education.

But most people who enter the teaching profession unfortunately do consider their work more convenient than significant. And this has been the bane of the school education system in our country. The teaching profession does not seem to attract enough people who have enthusiasm and energy.

Maya Menon

Young people on the threshold of their careers, rarely consider teaching as a career. They often dismiss it with comments like … ‘Oh it’s a convenient job for married women with children’, ‘It’s not really a profession – but it’s a useful past time’, ‘It gives you a lot of holidays and free time but it pays a pittance’… or the usual rhetoric “It’s a noble profession”. Such views aren’t likely to inspire bright young people, particularly men, to join the profession.

So those who do become teachers, do so out of compulsion, convenience and receive a training that’s quite inadequate for handling the various classroom situations and exigencies that arise. They aren’t equipped with the wide range of skills required of teachers in today’s classrooms, nor is there planned mentoring to develop these skills while on the job.

This is the context in which The Teacher Foundation or TTF as we are familiarly called, works. The vision of TTF is to make schools enabling environments for all students, by empowering educators to become energetic, effective, reflective practitioners and life-long learners. We passionately hold that teachers have tremendous impact on the children they teach or interact with. Children observe everything we say or do, consciously or unconsciously. Our every gesture, turn of phrase, action and decision is noticed and remembered.

We often ask school teachers what would they like to be remembered for – for the memorable moments of enjoyable, engaging learning or for monotonous moralistic lectures; for kindling curiosity and concern for this world or for in some way killing the children’s courage and confidence? Teachers across the country, wittingly or unwittingly make a choice when they come to school and walk into classrooms every day. Unfortunately the vast majority of teachers make the wrong choice because they don’t know better. Neither have they had a very enjoyable and meaningful experience while at school themselves. They have also not been adequately trained to teach children in a changing and dynamic world. As is well-known, teachers teach the way they have been taught. Teachers in India are severely hampered by the fact that their own learning experiences have been dull and pedantic. In fact, one big contention that we have at TTF is that school teachers in independent India have not been accorded the value and status that the profession deserves.

We at TTF believe that teaching needs to shed its dowdy look of bored or ‘burnt out’ teachers, books gathering cobwebs on shelves and dull, dusty classrooms. It needs a fresh contemporary image – a touch of sparkle, a generous splash of fun, loads of compassion, creativity, commitment, ease with technology-enabled learning and unstinting faith and drive to excel! Our work therefore focuses on enabling and inspiring teachers through providing them with ongoing opportunities of enjoyable and relevant learning experiences.

TTF has recently completed 12 years providing a rich variety of professional development programmes and learning opportunities for teachers and heads of schools across the country. We have both short-term and sustained interventions in schools. They could be a day-long training programme with a batch of teachers or a two years whole school turnaround project. We have worked with more than 40,000 educators in over 1,500 private and government schools both in India and five other countries.

Much has changed in school education this past decade – competition is stiff in schools, schools are big business, privatisation of schools is ever growing, schools are just inundated with activities and are often not able to distinguish the valuable from the variety. Assessments are expected to change with the introduction of CCE. Technology has come in a big way, it has got more sophisticated and far more accessible. BUT – a big BUT! – The basics still need to be attended to urgently. Standards of teachers and teaching still need to be addressed by governments as well as individual school managements. There needs to be a critical mass of education professionals who believe this and do something about it – at the classroom level, at the school level and at state and policy level.

TTF is unique in that we train, support, enable teachers, head-teachers, school administrators only to enhance the work they do in schools. We have been stead fast in this! We don’t train in order to sell products. However, schools today are being beguiled by a multitude of products – smart boards, text books, teaching resources and they often mistake the training given on these products as professional development! That isn’t professional development! True professional development entails taking stock of what the teachers/ schools do in their current practice and diagnosing therefore what they need to do to ensure more effective and authentic learning for students and then training and supporting them to develop the appropriate competencies. This is hard laborious work – changing classroom learning, one teacher at a time. It is also invisible and unlikely to hit news headline in the way computers in schools and disconcerting data about schools and learning does.

While we all agree that times have changed dramatically, schools, barring a tiny minority, continue to do what they know or are comfortable with. Worse still, cosmetic changes take place in schools in the name of transformation, like for example installing smart boards. Instead what we need to do is seek out creative ideas for enhancing learning, clear actions and bold solutions. The Teacher Foundation strives to work with schools and governments to both design and deliver such solutions.
– Maya Menon

Stay in Touch with TTF: Website : www.teacherfoundation.org
Link to us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/teacherfoundation
Link to us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ttfUpdates
Read our Blog : http://blog.teacherfoundation.org/

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