For the newbie teacher

Rakhi Pande

Dear teachers,

It has been some months now since you have graduated from being a student teacher to a full-fledged teacher. Are you having severe existential doubts – and wondering why, oh why, you ever thought of this torturous form of acquiring a degree. Do you still feel excited at having become a qualified teacher?

Whatever your motive in acquiring the B.Ed degree, now that you are working as a full-fledged teacher -and I’m sure you’ll be a successful one – my earnest request to you is to be honest to your profession. You may work for a school or an institution that follows your progress over CCTV. Whether that is the case or not, it is downright criminal to be negligent in giving anything but the very best of yourself to this profession. Even when no one is watching.

Based on my experience, here are a few things I’d love to have you know:

point-1 Stay motivated. Tough to remain so, but it’s true. You may spend equal amounts of time on school activities and events as you do teaching. You’ll feel overworked and perhaps under appreciated. Remember that answer you learnt so well for ‘Qualities of a teacher’? Staying self-motivated is what will get you through a hard day.

Go the extra mile. I repeat; even when no one’s watching. Remember the reason you chose this profession – the children. Don’t let them down. They will form lasting values based on what they observe from your actions, not necessarily from what they hear you preach. Prepare children for the world they will face 5-10 years from now.

point-2 You will take work home. Yes it’s true. I don’t know of a single secondary school teacher who does not. It’s simply not possible. Whether it’s ideating for a new lesson or researching interesting activities, setting papers or correcting them, be prepared to work after hours.

You’ll want to quit the very first week. It happens to the best of them. You’ll think about it probably every month. Think of all those students or learners who scream your name from the bus, who come running and surround you at your neighbourhood mall if they spot you, who spend hours labouring over elaborate teacher’s day cards for you. Hang in there. Think of why you joined this profession.

Point-3 Set inductions work. I believe in the power of a good set induction. David Paul Ausubel and all the other educational researchers had it right. I owe my success among my students to generating so much excitement and interest in the topic to be taught, that it’s half the battle won. Of course, you will spend a lot of time getting it right. But it’s worth it!

point-8 The first class is important. The minute you walk into the classroom, the students start forming judgments about you. They will see how far you can be pushed. What they conclude from your behaviour will last. It will be discussed among students of various classes and divisions, will be overheard by their siblings and parents at home, will create an impression that will travel across classes and divisions you don’t even teach and will shape your success or lack of it for years to come. Watch your language and stay abreast of the latest; students can tell if you’re being lazy. Go the extra mile.

point-5 Be patient, be fair. I know you think you’re really patient; you’re a wonder with kids, right? Wait till you face a classroom of young ‘learners’. Remember, a lot of them have picked up traits from their family/friends outside of school. Now it’s up to you to show them a better alternative. Remember you’re the adult; keep your ego at bay. Find the middle path between the two extremes of being a pushover and an uncompromising disciplinarian. Use humour to diffuse situations and to make your point.

Slow learners. Each class will have them. Read up on learning disabilities and their causes and symptoms and be kind while interacting with/assessing children. It’s not their fault. They’ll surprise you. Listen to the students.

Meeting the parents. It is a necessary evil. Be firm and get your point across no matter how recalcitrant the parent. Give credit to and appreciate the good ones who’re getting their parenting skills right.

point-10 Be conversant with new technology. Use PowerPoints, worksheets, videos, songs, movies, assignments involving online research. Use whatever technology the school provides to the fullest. This will keep your learning curve growing as well as the students’. Try not to bore the students.

There’s a lot more; perhaps next time. All I know is you’re never going to want to leave once you join it. Welcome to a profession that really matters.

The author teaches English and social studies at a school in Mumbai. She can be reached at rakhi1002@gmail.com.