Do we realise…?

Zarin Virji

What is teaching all about? There could be more opinions on this than there are teachers! Here are some thought-provoking ideas which could provide some valuable insights into the profession.

What or who is a teacher? The answer eludes me. The more experience I gain, the less I feel like the ideal teacher.

How did I get into this world of teaching? A conviction to mould young minds, a desire to be a source of inspiration before cynicism sets in, to encourage lofty ideals and help in trying to maintain them. But what is teaching all about? An answer to this can only be attempted and never fully explained. So the ideas suggested here are not exhaustive. They are some thoughts to be shared with colleagues in my profession.

Teaching is about body language
Do we look tired? Do we look unhappy? As we face the bundles of energy every morning, these questions ought to be examined. Will not that look of irritation and boredom on our faces put a stop to their ceaseless questions…?

Do we really smile at them on encountering them in the corridor or outside the school gates, or is it an unthinking, mechanical nod? Are we all ears when they pour forth their difficulties; some haltingly and others readily?

Do we rejoice when they share their joys and mourn with them their losses?

Teaching is about conquering moods. Discipline demands firmness and consistency, they say. But how often do we fly off the handle, lashing out at the children because we are upset with things unrelated to the class.

Teaching is about building relationships

  • Urmila, the taciturn teenager who witnesses the suicide of her mother. How can I reach her without accepting her as my friend first?
  • Satish, the bully, whose fees are not paid and whose parents do not come to see me despite repeated intimations. It’s only a visit to his home that begins to make a difference.

To the parents it’s a sign that the teacher cares for their child, which in turn makes them more attentive. To us, it could be a revelation of the world they come from, where education is not the priority, survival is!

  • Abdul, the slow learner, who cries at the thought of going to school each day. His mother’s tears would persuade us to enter into a secret pact with her child. If the magic works, Abdul can actually smile every morning!
  • Nazima, the child who goes in for her surgery. Getting well wishes from her class would go a long way to boost her morale.

Inter-personal rapport could work miracles. All it requires is sensitivity and affection.

Teaching is about impartiality
All of us vibe better with some people, while other relationships are uneasy and even hostile. Can we let our prejudices affect our choices and decisions in a classroom? The greatest tribute a teacher could receive from the pupils is a declaration of impartiality. That the students realize that a teacher does not favour some among them more or deprive some of his/her affection is a wonderful feeling.

Teaching is about honesty
It is important to be open about acknowledging our mistakes and failings. Sharing them with colleagues and students would mean learning from them. Asking for help when necessary is an admirable trait, instead of adopting a false bravado.

Teaching is about teamwork
Lauding colleagues on their strengths, encouraging when they falter and never criticizing with malice, these could help forge strong bonds within the teaching staff. A close-knit fraternity could bring about increased interdisciplinary activities.

Teaching is about creative solutions
How else could one do justice to the large numbers of children in each class? Children with a variety of socio-cultural backgrounds and levels of academic readiness seem enough to sap the initiative of any teacher, even the one with the greatest resolve and commitment. But perseverance is the name of the game.

Teaching is about management
A teacher needs to be a manager par excellence. Orchestrating the goings-on in the class on democratic lines, delegating jobs, offering incentives for improvement (however infinitesimal), accepting responsibility for failure – the buck stops here!

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