Teaching – an invaluable learning experience!
Ever since I stumbled upon the teaching profession by chance but continue to stay on by choice, I have amassed a wealth of invaluable experiences that have served to create an identity which I consider is the culmination of years of search to define myself. Today, I feel complete – having found my calling and striving continuously at getting better at it and eventually making a little difference in lives of those I interact with day in and day out by making them aware of who they are and what they are capable of. This process of engaging the young minds in educational instruction has been a continuous learning experience for me, owing to which, I am on a growth trajectory myself.
Upon taking up the teaching profession, I had actually embarked on a path of self- discovery. The journey so far has been eventful – with moments of exhilarating highs and dampening lows; times of obscurity and clarity; self- doubt and confidence; vexation and satisfaction, but altogether an enriching and rewarding experience. In the process of ‘teaching’ students of different age groups, one thing that I have learnt is that the teaching-learning process is not a one-way traffic. It is not a linear progression of knowledge/information transfusion from the teacher to the taught.
For the learning process to be meaningful and true to its purpose and function, the context plays a very important role in determining what to teach, when to teach, how to teach, and whom to teach. Though there is almost unanimous agreement among educators the world over about what should go into a school curriculum, there are different pedagogical approaches and tools favoured and used extensively, which account for the seemingly different learning experiences. But underneath the telling differences exhibited by various schools of thought, the basic tenets and the underlying principles are the same. The entire teaching-learning process (in light of the technological revolution and information explosion the world has witnessed during the last few decades of the previous century) has undergone tremendous change.
The rules of engagement have changed. The role of a teacher is no longer seen as that of an imparter of knowledge but that of a facilitator of learning. Students are no more the ‘wet clay’ to be moulded into the desired shapes. Today they come equipped with a better understanding of the world around them and multiple sources of information available at their disposal to quench their curiosity, thanks to the advent of internet.
So in keeping with changing times, the educational processes have to be attuned to meet the requirements of changing times. The following insights gained during my relatively limited teaching experience have served me well to fine tune my instructional strategies and teaching skills to enhance learning output of students and give me the satisfaction of having done my job well.
- Every class presents a new learning opportunity waiting to be discovered. This can happen only when the teacher goes to the class with an open mind – to expect the unexpected from the students and together embark on a journey of exploration and discovery of knowledge. To create a conducive atmosphere for learning, there should be no pre-determined rules of engagement set by the teacher.
- The teacher instead of occupying the centre-stage should recede into the background, paving way for the learners to be the pivot around which the learning process should be centred. It is suggested that the teacher refrain from projecting herself as a figure of authority, imparter of knowledge which otherwise becomes a major impediment in the democratic participation of students in the learning process.
- A teacher must always gauge the level of readiness of learners towards a new learning experience and streamline the course of instruction accordingly. Unfortunately, most of the times the teacher comes across as one who is determined to pass on reams of information irrespective of the level of preparedness of the students to receive the intended knowledge. Instead if the teacher is successful in veering the discussion away from what he/she knows to what the pupils think and perceive about the topic under discussion, a true assessment of learner readiness can be gauged and then the required course of action can be determined.
- Never underestimate the learner. In fact the more the space created for open ended discussion and free exchange of ideas, the better the quality of learning will be demonstrated.
- Be a co-learner. Every batch of students and every new academic year presents a new challenge. Every seasoned educator would vouch for it. No matter how well versed a teacher is with a course of study, every time the course material is revisited with a new group of students, it invariably offers fresh perspectives and insights into the same topics. This can happen only when the teacher also engages with the text as if it were the first time.
- The more accommodative the education system becomes to diverse schools of thought and pedagogical styles, the better learning outcomes will be demonstrated.
- Interspersing transaction of syllabus with anecdotes and reflections on our present day lifestyles, social issues, cultural values, etc offers real-life connect to make the classroom transactions meaningful and authentic.
- Getting to know the students – their interests, talents, expectations, goals and aspirations, providing a platform to voice their opinions about anything concerning them, helps build a good rapport between the teacher and the students – a prerequisite for building mutual trust and understanding, without which the teaching process becomes just another mechanical process – devoid of that human element that makes the endeavour worthwhile.
Teaching offers vast scope to integrate many life skills into everyday transaction, to do more than just skills acquisition and honing them. My most cherished and satisfying classroom experiences have been those where extended classroom activities that take off from the lesson, provide means to engage in philosophical discussions on the larger questions of life, impelling us to examine our value systems, relationships, priorities and aspirations. Such experiences infuse life and energy into classroom interactions – making teaching not only interesting but also meaningful.
All said and done, I believe that teaching is an intuitive process. In order to truly qualify being a teacher, one should relentlessly strive to authenticate knowledge by validating it through experience and then and only then proceed to introduce it to the pupils. Finally the passion to teach and the commitment to continuous learning is what make the teacher a true educator in the real sense of the word.
P. Ajitha: being born into a family of educationists, teaching as a career choice would have been thought of as the logical progression after studies but happened accidentally. The foundation for noble profession perhaps was laid during schooling at Sainik School Imphal. Having the advantage of seeing and experiencing the myriad hues of Indian culture through travel and stay in different parts of the country, has helped develop an appreciation of Indian ethos and values which has also been instrumental in shaping the vision for teaching. The first teaching assignment was at an International Residential School in Gujarat .Had experience in teaching Soft Skills to MBA students before joining Delhi Public School, Vijayawada in the year of its inception in 2007 as a teacher in English