Passion makes the difference

Rubina Majid

Rubina It is now well-known that the single most important factor determining the quality of the education a child receives is the quality of his teacher.

Teachers can make a sizable and positive difference to how well children do at school, but it is sad that not all teachers do. The reality is that some teachers are more effective than other teachers.

Research on teacher effectiveness suggests that students placed with high-performing teachers progress three times as fast as those placed with low-performing teachers. And that brings us to a bigger question:

Why are some teachers better than others?
The answer is the teaching strategies that they use and of course the teachers themselves. Teachers in any school adopting similar teaching strategies will not change the fact that there will always be some teachers who definitely have more impact on students than others.

As a teacher myself, I believe that the best teachers are passionate people. They care about and love what they teach. These teachers like the challenge of helping all students learn in their classrooms. Their passion is contagious and their students are influenced by this love of learning.

And teaching is not an easy job!
Passion is what drives us teachers to put so much energy into our teaching. And passion is what stops us from giving up when things get hard, while motivating us to learn ways to improve our skills – no matter how good we already are. One cannot be a great teacher without a passion for helping kids learn.

The best teachers expect all of their students to work hard and learn. These teachers understand that their students are at different stages and have varying levels of ability.

Effective teachers also expect their students to work on learning things that they have not mastered earlier and challenge both the high achievers and the struggling students. Research shows that this consistent challenge is the major difference between the effective teacher and the rest of the teachers.

Effective teachers need to be problem solvers and decision makers as this is the essence of their daily routine. They need to know the content they have to teach as well as the most effective ways to teach it. This helps the students to move from surface knowledge to deeper levels of understanding. The teachers connect students’ prior knowledge to the new knowledge in curriculum while helping each student improve. Effective teachers use facts as a starting point and not an end point. They ask “why” questions, look at all possibilities and encourage students to predict what will happen later. They ask open-ended questions often to make sure students have understood and followed what was taught. They try to involve everyone in the class while not allowing a few students to dominate. These teachers keep students motivated with varied, energetic and supportive approaches.

Caring is an important part of teaching and effective teachers care about their students. They are warm, empathetic and respectful. Students are offered support when needed so that they can overcome their fears and believe in their own capacity to learn while making mistakes.

Effective teachers help each student succeed and it happens that at times they fail in their effort. They are not daunted by the failures and embrace these temporary setbacks as stepping stones to success.

The role of the teacher has become an even more significant factor in education with the passage of the RTE Act in 2009. Under the RTE Act, education is a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and it specifies minimum norms in elementary schools. It requires all private schools to reserve 25 per cent of seats for under-privileged children (to be reimbursed by the state as part of the public-private partnership plan). National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE) can help us ensure that every class has a qualified teacher in this area. The following key points could be:
• Raising professional standards for teachers.
• Improving salaries and working conditions.
• Reinventing teacher preparation and professional development.
• Encouraging and rewarding teacher knowledge and skills.

The implementation of teacher professional development leading to effectiveness is a slow process but there will be a change.

This change will have the greatest impact on student achievement.

Teachers who make this change happen are committed to excellence through their ability to make the students realize their own personal growth with their advice and guidance.

Rubina Majid is currently a teacher trainer. She misses being a classroom teacher after having taught elementary students for more than two decades. Rubina works as a consultant for Scholastic Publishing Company and Tata Consultancy Services for their educational initiatives. She believes in the importance of Continuous Professional Development for teachers to ensure that they continue to be competent in their profession. She can be reached at majidrubina@gmail.com.