Three and a half decades ago, I began my formal journey as a teacher. For nine years, I taught mathematics and science to high school learners and then moved on to teach in a B.Ed college. This is my 36th year as a teacher and as I reflect on this long journey, scenes from the past unfold before my eyes. Unlike the two-minute reels on popular networking sites, the reel of my journey as a teacher gives me the liberty of pausing certain moments and reliving the happy memories. What strikes me the most is that this journey of teaching has actually been a journey of learning, of innovation, and empowerment.
E -power to empower
When I began teaching, I was fortunate to learn from the Christian Brothers, who administered the school I taught at. In the late 1980s, computers was introduced as a subject in school. The school principal, Br. Martin Fernandes, encouraged us teachers to learn the computer. That was the start of a fascinating saga of self-empowerment for me. The decade of the 1990s brought the internet to us and it literally was ‘Net-Set-Go’. Many new avenues for self-learning opened up and I voraciously gorged on these. The first decade of the new millennium saw the use of Web 1.0, where I was a consumer of the content. But the latter half of this decade unfolded the beauty of Web 2.0, where I was now a prosumer (producer and consumer) of the content.
During the course of my doctoral research, my guide Dr. Veena Deshmukh introduced me to the magical world of online learning. This was around 2006-2008 and online learning was indeed magic to me! Yeshwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University had launched a new programme called E-B.Ed. Under the mentoring of Dr. Veena Deshmukh and stalwarts in the field of education like Prof. Ram Takwale and Prof. M N Deshmukh, our team designed and deployed online modules in teacher education. This endeavour helped me keep myself updated about changes in education. In 2010, I enrolled for a course by Wikieducator and discovered the enormous potential of Open Education Resources (OERs). This voyage of learning saw some happy sailing as I learnt about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Learning Management Systems (LMS). I dabbled with many free platforms and created MOOCs and OERs. My modus operandi would be to explore e-platforms, see how they work and then deploy the same to reach out to my students. Blended learning and flipped classroom were now part of my daily vocabulary. Many times, my students and I would be part of the same MOOCs and we all learnt from one another.
Then in 2020 came the pandemic! All educators were forced to shift to the online mode. My experience of Web 2.0 provided solutions to many challenges. The lockdown was a period of learning. My students would often recommend some e-platforms and we would jointly see how these could be used for constructivist learning. Many in-service teachers were apprehensive about using online learning, so I designed and deployed training sessions for teachers. Over 500 teachers participated in the sessions and faced the unprecedented situation with equanimity by using basic e-learning tools to reach out to their students.
Lockdown introduced me to new avenues as I discovered the nuances of virtual and augmented learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence in education unfolded a whole new world of customized learning experiences. All these were moments of great satisfaction for me. I realized that staying updated as a teacher means one has to be a perennial learner. Being updated as a teacher also calls for putting oneself in the reflective practitioner mode.
Takeaways as a reflective practitioner
Teachers, as reflective practitioners, systematically reflect on their practice to improve their own performance as well as that of their learners. As I reflect over the key takeaways from my journey so far, I identify five lessons that I value the most.
• Keep looking for ways to grow: Teachers, as reflective practitioners, need to keep looking for ways to renew themselves. Leverage the potential of online learning. Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET), NCERT offers a number of training programmes that one can access from the comfort of one’s home. Till date, I have participated in a number of such programmes and have benefitted immensely.
• Connect and collaborate: As a teacher, always strive to be surrounded by people who inspire you. Connect with teachers who are passionate about their work. Collaborate and try new ways to help learners explore what they learn. Build your own personal learning network to help you in your journey.
• Respect the potential of each learner: I have learnt that mere marks do not define a person. The boy in my class who struggled to get 50% marks is a successful entrepreneur today. The boy, who was shy to speak in front of a crowd, is a human resource trainer in a reputed firm. Never undermine the riches that learners carry within themselves. As teachers, we can provide them the right support, direct them towards the right track and they will bloom!
• Share and grow: If you have some good practices in teaching-learning, share them with others. This could be through informal meetings or through formal ways like blogging or writing for a magazine. In this context, I would like to acknowledge Teacher Plus, as it was the first magazine where I got published, back in 2009. This motivated me to write regularly and each article I wrote helped me learn. Remember, the more we share the more we grow.
• Choose to be grateful: A quote attributed to Sir Isaac Newton says, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Indeed, we are successful teachers because of those who helped us learn. This includes our parents, teachers, students, peers, authors, and a host of other people who have directly and indirectly helped us create a niche for ourselves. It is not joy that makes us grateful, rather it is gratitude that makes us joyful. So, choose to be grateful for your vocation as a teacher. Touching the lives of your students is the best way to express gratitude to those who touched your life.
On this occasion of Teacher’s Day, I extend my wishes to all readers who are connected with this noble vocation of nurturing young minds.
The author is an associate professor at Pushpanjali College of Education, Vasai. She can be reached at email@example.com.