Options outside the classroom

The past three decades have seen a huge churning in the education space. Curriculum reform, a new education law, the entry of new kinds of schools and rearrangements of the old relationships between school, child, and parent, and the extension of the business of education in surprising ways. Our last issue took on one of these new business models – the outsourcing of assessment – and debated its pros and cons. This issue of Teacher Plus takes on a different question, but one that also arises in the wake of these changes.

If schools are changing, if expectations and processes of education are changing, then doesn’t it follow that the teacher should also change? Of course, the role of the teacher has come under friendly and hostile scrutiny particularly in the wake of technology-led education reforms. But the space occupied by those trained as teachers has also changed in positive and liberating ways. And that’s the space that this issue of the magazine looks at, through the experiences of those who have taken a step outside the classroom to engage in a variety of pursuits that still have at their core the teaching-learning process. To be a teacher has always meant multiple things; classroom practice brings together several skills and knowledge domains. The expansion of the “business” of education has to an extent allowed each of these skill sets to be applied in a variety of contexts outside the classroom, in addition to their use within the traditional teaching framework. Just as we have freelancer and consultants in other professional fields, teachers too can now become their own bosses, trading specific skills sets in the market.

But in all this excitement about other avenues of work available to teachers, it’s important to not forget that the value of these “disaggregated” skills comes precisely from an understanding of how they work together to facilitate children’s learning. For that, the classroom as a whole and the child as an individual are crucial elements. Whether one is designing curricula or creating learning materials, or consulting on how to furnish classrooms or assess language skills, it all goes back to the sensitivity that we develop over time, through our interactions with children and other teachers.

So while we celebrate and take advantage of these opportunities, it would also be good to take a reality check from time to time and think about the larger space and context that fuel their demand. If you began your teaching journey in a classroom, go back to that experience now and then; think about what excited you and interested you, what bothered you and angered you. Ultimately, those are the things that drive all other activities in the education space, however far they seem to be from the messiness and daily grind of classroom teaching!