Posts from the past
Over the years, education has undergone a lot of transformation. Today it is more open, allows for a more varied experience and is considered more child-friendly. But what about one of the main pillars of education – the teachers? What is life like for them now? Is it different from what it was before? Does the teacher of this decade think and work like the teacher of the 50s or the 70s? We asked teachers from five decades to share their thoughts with us. Tell us how you think the decades compare with regard to the life of a teacher.
I began teaching at the age of 18. It was my father who encouraged me to enter this profession as he wanted me to experience life and have a career. In my days as a teacher we were expected to plan our lessons the previous week itself and have it approved by the headmaster or headmistress. Those were days when we didn’t have textbooks in the vernacular medium, so apart from teaching Hindi I had to read up geography and history textbooks in English and teach these to the students in Hindi. With all the constraints of those times I think the teacher-student relationship was more sacrosanct then than it is now. Teachers became one with the class and students then. If they were discussing the map of India, they would draw it on the field and show it to the students. Teachers would sit down with the students with their sarees tucked up and ready to dirty themselves. Teachers got to relate to the students and understand them and students got to experience learning. There was no divide between the student and the teacher. They were one.
I became a teacher because in my time teaching was supposed to be a respectable and comfortable job for women. But before I embarked on my career as a teacher, I did have the opportunity to work for BSNL. However since this job was in Bangalore, away from my home town, my parents decided that teaching was a better option for me.
As a teacher in the 1970s, I had to learn new things every day, have notes of my lessons ready, prepare charts for the class the following day, be up to date in general Knowledge. After all, my students expected me to supply them with examples whenever a new concept was taught. I should mention that the parent-student-teacher relationship was held in high regard in my time. Parents would actually come to the school to tell me why their children didn’t finish their homework for the day! I believe that if you are sincere, knowledgeable, and understand children, you will make a good teacher.
I have always loved children and therefore my career choice was a given. While working with children infused fresh energy in me, issues with the school management always drained me out. I remember I particularly had a tough time with them because of the way I chose to teach my students. The freedom given to the teacher was not much in that regard but I was accountable to my students alone so I persisted with the methods I believed were best for my students.
In those days, students would look up to the teacher for guidance and clear their doubts in the subject. This was a time before the Internet and Google so they always appreciated what the teachers did for them. Even today when my students come and visit me to tell me of the progress they have made, it is a feeling of complete contentment.
Why did I choose to teach? Because I am passionate about teaching. Being a teacher keeps me alert all the time. You never know what you see, hear, or think can be used in your next class. Thinking up new strategies, simplifying complex ideas, making teaching-learning fun, this is what makes teaching so much different from other professions. Every day is a fresh start. I am not however saying that teaching is a bed of roses. When it comes to education it is important that the teacher, the parent, and the child walk the same path. But I find that this doesn’t happen always. Often lack of communication between these parties leads to problems. But like I said, if you are passionate about teaching and are patient and preserve with your cause, things will turn out fine.
I have always wanted to be a teacher. Despite this clarity of thought, I started out as a ward secretary in a hospital. I suppose I needed a really unsatisfying job to realize the passion I have for teaching. It is not an easy job though considering that you have to spend a lot of time planning your classes for the next day. You have to be thorough in your subject, be very good with your communication skills and should be adept at handling parents and students. Often, teachers are looked upon as strict disciplinarians who don’t have feelings. But that I suppose comes from the way a teacher conducts herself/himself. Maybe, if we relax a bit, our image will change. This job is a demanding one, but the satisfaction that it provides is something that no other job can. With improving pay scales and newer technology coming in, this is a good profession to be in right now.
Honestly, I opted to do a B.Ed course only to pass my time, but after the first lesson I was convinced that this was the job for me! Of course there is a lot of work involved. There is the external preparation of resources, lesson designing, organizing syllabus, etc. And there is the inner preparation of being calm, getting enough sleep, and learning to be patient. But when you see the rewards that this profession brings – student admiration, strong relationships with their parents – the preparation seems worth it all.
It is also true however that there is little respect or regard for teachers. Teachers are perceived as people who do not know much more than their subject. The concept of “an intelligent and passionate teacher” is yet to be accepted by the corporate sector.
I don’t actively teach now, but I will when schooling changes from ‘syllabus finishing to student growth’. Mentoring a student, watching someone blossom – there is no joy greater than that!
I started teaching rather late in my life. I was 41 years old by then. I had been a bank officer for eight years, a home maker for another eight when the urge to do something caught me.
I was clear in my mind that I wanted to do something outside home. I could not take up a full time job due to domestic compulsions. Remedial teaching suited me as I wanted to be involved with children. Learning, thinking about learning has always fascinated me. This field with a lot of possibilities to explore different teaching methods to suit children with different skill sets is a great learning experience. I have to do a lot of one to one teaching, where the learning style, the strengths and weaknesses of the student, the content to be taught determines my preparation, the intensity and the time taken.
Sadly, many people perceive teachers as uncaring, mechanical, and impatient. We tend to get a bad name in precisely the areas where teachers should get a good name. Parents have a very protective attitude about their children, indulge them frequently misunderstanding it as affection, this leads to trouble and the first person to take the blame is the school and teacher.
Yet the joy of teaching motivates me all the time. When I see the students smile as they enjoy learning, when they start feeling competent, when their fears disslove and they become happier individuals, why should I ever stop?
I no longer teach. Disllusioned, disheartened and frustrated by societal non-recognition, scheming school managements, and warped government policies on schooling and teaching, I lost the motivation and eventually quit.Teachers are treated like dirt. Miracles are expected of us without any respectable pay or incentives. There is little realization that learning is a slow and laboured process and it is not possible for a child to learn everything and master matters in the shortest possible time.
There is also the perception that anyone can be a teacher without really understanding the efforts that go into teaching as well as learning. It requires a certain passion and temperament. It is assumed that teaching is all about discipline and ensuring good performance in exams. As a result it is seen to be a job of no great value or worth.
Schools expect teachers to generate a lot of paperwork, which helps little in teaching practices. You are restricted in the way you want to teach. Freedom if at all is given grudgingly. School teaching and teachers has/have no status in India and in most third world countries and perhaps that is one of the reasons why we continue to be the third world!
From my stint as a teacher I realized that a passion to communicate and interact with children, sound domain knowledge, and willingness to learn, unlearn, and relearn alone are not enough for you to continue teaching, you also need a supportive environment.
A common misconception about teachers is that they are strict disciplinarians and that our job is easy and that we have a lot of free time. How far from that the truth is that! When I entered this profession I knew that I had my work cut out for me. To be a good teacher I have to be on my toes all the time. Even when I am relaxing I am thinking whether this could be a good teaching moment. I have to be prepared with the matter to be taught and plan my lessons in advance if my students are not to get bored in the class. But the time and effort that I put in are all worth it because of the students I teach. They keep me young, mentally alert, and connected to the ever changing world around me.
I began teaching in 2011. Initially wanting to work in the field of journalism, I chose teaching for the interaction with children, for both imparting and absorbing knowledge and also for the love of literature. Growing up, I had always loved teaching imaginary audiences. This grew into separate crash-courses before exams for some of my friends and through such experiences I became aware of my passion for the field.
The school I worked at had just officially started that year and was in the experimenting stage. They did not believe in the concept of fixed textbooks for students, since each child has his/her own wavelength of understanding. This placed a lot of expectation on the teacher to come up with study patterns that each child could relate to. This made some parents jittery as I was just starting out in the field of education, and was, in that sense, a novice. They wondered how I could teach students without the experience. On the other hand, there were some parents who kindly gave me the benefit of the doubt, providing valuable suggestions and even encouraging me.
I believe that a teacher must be innovative, open to new suggestions (from not just their colleagues, but even their students), confident and most importantly, honest. A teacher also has to be confident. Without a little bit of self-confidence, the teacher will be perceived as weak and unsure – and this is not just among older students, but even the younger ones.
Though I quit my job as a teacher a year later to pursue my M. Phil in English, I would love to go back to teaching, just for the fun of the experience – the students, the classes, the preparation and the anticipation of something new every day. No two days are the same in a school, and it is this feeling that makes me want to go back.
Sini Santosh Nair
As a last bencher in school I always wondered why I couldn’t relate to my teachers. Why they were so stuck to their books? Their teaching was only theory and I had many questions. Some teachers would only speak to the genius students. I always learnt things from my father or by myself. I had decided at a young age that I will be a teacher beyond books.
As a teacher one needs to be well-read, well prepared before entering the class and accountable to the children. A teacher is like a performer on stage. It is necessary that one leaves aside all worries and troubles outside the class and gives one’s best shot every time. One has to be patient, calm and also open to constructive criticism from students all the time. It will help the teacher in you to evolve.
Teaching has always been a misunderstood profession. People believe that this is a comfortable job filled with holidays and vacations but those of us in the profession know otherwise.
You have to have an excellent and ever-updated command and in-depth knowledge about your subject, an unbiased and open outlook about the students and an ability to balance work and pleasure in the classroom.
I became a teacher by default, because it was the one option open to me after an M.A. in English,which I didn’t hate. I didn’t want to teach in a college, or spend years of my life doing an M.Phil or PHD, so I decided to try my hand at school-teaching. I went in unsure if I would enjoy it, but realized after a week that I actually loved it.
Teaching is a lot more work than I expected it to be. While the preparation for each class is not too much, corrections, report card writing, and making lesson plans are time consuming and exhausting. Also you need a lot of patience, enthusiasm, and very healthy lungs.
A lot of people are surprised when I say I’m a teacher, especially since the rest of my friends are doing completely different things. People see teachers as middle-aged, sari-clad women with a bunch of stock phrases like, “Please share the joke with the class?” and “I want pin-drop silence!” While it’s true that I do occasionally use some of these lines (because they work!), I don’t fit the stereotype.
Tough job, but I love the kids. I find them adorable and very amusing, even (sometimes especially) the naughty ones. Perhaps that will wear off with time, but for now, it makes up for all the clerical work and the phone calls from hyper parents.
I have two kids. In the process of finding engaging ways to teach my own children, I realized that I was good at teaching and it was a meaningful rewarding profession. I enrolled for a BEd, and haven’t looked back since.
Preparedness is the key to the success of the teaching profession. One can pull many strategies of classroom management and teaching from the hat, but crystallized plans with resources to achieve particular outcomes, assessment strategies, etc., are what make a good teacher. I have often observed that if the teacher was a good student, she/he becomes a good teacher. Rote learners have always made poor teachers.
Outside the teaching community, teachers are still looked upon as the group who didn’t get the big jobs, especially in India. There are few people aspiring to be teachers. But when you realize the fact that you are directly impacting so many tender lives every day and the future indirectly there is certainly a sense of pride there. We are changing the world, one child at a time.
When we shifted to Mysore, I wanted to be involved in my son’s education. After some deliberations I enrolled my son in a school started by a friend. I volunteered to teach math and lifeskills at the school. I realized that I enjoy teaching and hence decided to become a fulltime teacher the following year.
I do believe though that the teaching profession needs a complete revamp. Most teachers are paid a lowly sum, but are expected to work very hard and upkeep all the values of teaching. Today, it is difficult for any person to have teaching at a school as the primary source of income. Thus we find most teachers supplementing their income through teaching at coaching classes, giving home tuitions, and more recently becoming online tutors or involving themselves in e-learning ventures.
Also the recent trend is of working mothers selecting teaching as an alternate career option. Many of my friends including I have become teachers after motherhood. It gives us flexibility. As teachers we get many holidays and vacations and do not have to compromise on spending time with our children.