I remember reading a Japanese proverb once, “Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.” This incident took place in my life six years ago, when I was in higher secondary school. Though I enjoyed learning science, I was scared of chemistry. I found it difficult to understand the concepts. I tried my best to work hard for it. But nothing clicked. One day I had a chemistry test. I wasn’t surprised that I had performed terribly in it. At the end of the class, the teacher came to me and said, “What’s wrong my dear? You have scored really well in other subjects, then why not in chemistry? Don’t you like the subject?”My answer was, “Yes, I do teacher, but I don’t understand the concepts.” That day my teacher sat with me and helped me understand some of the concepts in such a way that I became very familiar with them. Chemistry could be so easy and interesting at the same time. That was the moment I realized that all I needed was one day with a great teacher. I realized no matter how many hours you spend studying or watching videos on a particular topic, there is no substitute for a teacher. And so I decided to become a teacher myself. I wanted to be someone who could shape the lives of students and make them better human beings. I wanted to be a teacher who was remembered not just for her teaching but also for the love and care she showed towards her students. I dreamt of a career where my education was never going to stop, and yes teaching is one such profession where you never stop learning. In fact, you learn everyday from your pupils.
I worked hard to become a teacher. And I have been fortunate to have had teachers who believed in me, motivated and inspired me.
The day arrived when after being a student for so many years, I was myself now a teacher to a bunch of students. June 3, 2021 is a memorable day in my life. I entered my class for my very first lecture, though not physically but virtually, as a chemistry teacher. I was nervous but at the same time excited to step into the world of my dreams. I heard my students say, “Good morning teacher”. That greeting brought a smile on my face. All my nervousness and anxiety disappeared. Looking into their eyes I could see the wonder, curiosity, inspiration and enthusiasm they had for learning, and that motivated me to give my best. The first thing I did in my class was to get to know my students and make them comfortable. By the end of the day I knew how important my role as a teacher was going to be and this first day made me realize the truth in a statement I used to hear as a child, “Parents are the first teachers and teachers are the second parents.”
My ultimate goal was to motivate my students in their learning by exploring the world around them and making real life connections to the content being taught, to make them question their observations and help them think critically.
To be able to learn without fear, my students had to be comfortable not just with me but also with their classmates. So I gave each one of my students the chance to speak and open up in the class.
My everyday practice so far has been to reflect on my teaching, as I believe in what John Dewey said, “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on our experience.”
As days pass, I realize not all students in the class are alike. Each student is different and has a different learning style. Some students learn better with visuals in the form of an image or video or by visualizing a situation in the form of a story. Some learn by doing an activity. Some are slow learners, whereas others grasp a concept extremely fast.
As a student I had realized how important it is to know the basics of a particular topic in order to understand the topic at an advanced level. Keeping this in mind I always try to begin a topic by spending more time on the basics. There are times when I am able to gauge that my students are not fully satisfied with how a class is progressing and I reassure them that in the next class I will explain the topic using a different approach. I am also not afraid to tell my students that I don’t always know the answer to their questions and that I will get back to them with an answer in the next class. I am happy that my students have started thinking the way I want them to. It motivates me to learn more about a certain topic and find answers to their questions. As Joseph Joubert, French moralist and essayist, rightly said, “To teach is to learn twice over.”
I believe in the constructivist approach, so I work to help my students actively understand and reconstruct everything that they learn rather than give them readymade knowledge.
My constant effort has been to make teaching interesting, engaging and interactive with the help of different activities and technological tools, by using visuals and questions which will inspire them to think critically.
I believe in treating each child with the love and respect they deserve. I try to be humble and give my students the time they need with me, even if it means waiting after the class to clear their doubts. I believe in having some relaxing sessions where the students will relax by interacting with each other and playing brain teasers to develop positive group dynamics.
So far my best memory has been when at the end of a lecture, the students were so engrossed in their learning activity that they started yelling, “Don’t stop, please take the next class as well, we will continue.”That time I saw the spark in their eyes to learn and it made my eyes sparkle and beam with joy.
Educating is considerably a more remunerating experience in terms of the happiness that a teacher gets from her/his students’ achievements, which ultimately gives job satisfaction.
Finally as somebody unknown had once said, “No I am not a superhero, I am something even more powerful. I am a teacher. I don’t need a cape, because I am lifted up by the amazing and inspiring kids I teach.”
The author is a chemistry teacher in Rustomjee Cambridge International School. She can be reached at [email protected].