Teaching in times of uncertainty

teacher The past year has been one of uncertainty for teachers and educational institutions in many parts of the country, in many ways. In zones of conflict, whether due to insurgency or protest movements, or other law and order situations, schools are the first to be affected. Indefinite bandhs disrupt the school calendar to an extent that teachers and children need to work through holidays or sit through extra periods, rushing to cram a heavy syllabus into those few additional hours. Then there are political contingencies. Elections throw off the calendar. After elections new governments begin to uninstall any machinery put in place by a previous leadership, attempting to erase the collective memory of acts within the education space (among others). In Andhra Pradesh, it has been the Telangana movement that put the system in limbo for much of last year. In Tamil Nadu, it was the uncertainty over the Samacheer common curriculum, because of internal political wrangling, that held up textbooks from reaching the schools.

A few issues ago, we had featured a story from the Ladakh area describing the way in which teachers and the community come together to ensure uninterrupted classes for the children after widespread damage due to an earthquake. This was because all stakeholders in the system – teachers, parents, the larger community – took the initiative to keep things going for the children. Schools (in whatever form) can help to provide children with a sense of continuity and normalcy in situations where the rest of their world is in turmoil. And when the context of education itself is in turmoil – as was the case in Tamil Nadu – teachers would need to take responsibility for making micro-level judgments about what constitutes education for them while they wait for the government to make up its mind. They can use the classroom in ways that textbooks and curricula do not allow, and take advantage in the breathing space given by these pauses without a syllabus to race to completion. Think about it, disruptions could actually be rare opportunities for creative education!

Either way, it’s important for teachers to recognize that they can regain power within a system that often robs them of it. They can create – or co-opt – spaces for innovative education at the most unexpected moments. The thing is to keep one’s eyes and mind open.

This Teachers’ Day, we present you with a wide range of stories from practicing teachers and past students about the business and pleasure of being in the profession. They reinforce the idea that the classroom is often in our heads – and as such, it can be as big, and as exciting, as we want to make it!

Happy Teachers’ Day!