Teachers are among of the strongest pillars of education. Everyone wishes to have a happy school. But how can a school be happy if the teachers are unhappy?
I once wondered on being asked if I was a teacher by chance or choice. I don’t think anyone has ever asked whether an engineer, or a doctor, or an architect has become one by chance or choice. Then why ask a teacher? Very unfair, don’t you think?
With such assumptions around the teaching profession, it is only the school that can uphold the teachers’ honour or dignity and make them feel important. Unfortunately, not many are privileged to get the respect they deserve.
When you expect that students must be treated well and given a chance to correct their errors, then why is there a different rule for teachers? Teachers are human beings too, trust them. I remember once arranging proxies for the wrong day. My heart skipped a beat on realizing the error and imagining the consequences that I would have to face. Surprisingly, however, I was told by my coordinator, “No problem, ma’am, it’s ok. We will quickly reschedule it. Let me help you.” It was such a relief that it made me work rigorously and happily without any fear of being taken to task.
This small gesture of my coordinator towards me was that aha moment where I realized that one must be empathetic towards students. I understood how a student must feel on writing the wrong answer, or forgetting a book, or on failing to follow an instruction. When I, like my generous coordinator, surprise them by giving them another chance, they come up with better work and we start sharing a special bond called ‘TRUST’, which is the foundation for a happy environment. The change reaction doesn’t stop here. It is seen even in students. When asked to work in groups, there is always a chance of differences coming up with someone doing more work and someone else delaying it. I could see how my children, instead of getting frustrated with the member delaying the work, try and find out the reason for the delay and help the member to get it done on time which is in a true sense, collaboration and cooperation. This again becomes a reason for a happy group, happy students and happy school!
On the other hand, distrust, disrespect, and ill-treatment make for an unhappy teacher. I remember how distressing it was once for our team to work with a tyrant leader. The innumerable changes in rules, blocking the channels of communication, restrictions on talking or laughing, inconsiderate deadlines, humiliating remarks in front of everyone were a few ways of ill-treatment. The effects of this were jarring. Some teachers accepted the seclusion with resignation, families of some teachers had to face repercussions and some lost their peace of mind and focus in protesting, but the worst impact was felt in the classrooms. The manner of dealing with students changed. Teachers were not able to spend any extra time building a bond with the students or giving feedback. The way the teachers were given deadlines, they started doing the same with the students. Though they did not stoop to the level of humiliating students, the teachers knew they were not doing things right and this made them feel even more miserable. The same responses could be seen by the students too. The time that they used to enjoy and talk among themselves was spent in completion of tasks without bothering about anyone who needed their help. This was leading to unhappiness.
The online era, which had a bright side to it, was also a time where humiliation knew no limits. Many teachers became victims of innocent tricks to vulgar jokes. I still feel the trauma that I went through on finding my meme on social media. I wanted to quit school. In fact, I wanted to quit teaching. But I was fortunate enough to get help from my institute that pulled me out of that pit of humiliation. A care call that I received from my authorities just to find out my wellbeing was a booster that added to the trust that I had in my institute. I started following the same for my students. These phone calls have a magical effect in building happy classrooms.
As educators, we know the importance of spoken as well as body language, then why don’t we put this knowledge to use when we deal with teachers? Harsh words leave an impression that takes a toll on the physical as well as emotional well-being of teachers. Treating them with a humane touch may cost nothing but trust will reap great benefits. Just imagine if teachers can contribute so much, despite being offended, how much an institute and in turn a country can prosper if teachers are happy. Let’s work towards making teachers happy in order to have happy schools.
The author is an educator and writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.