Multitasking mythology

Here’s a familiar story.

It’s morning in the average Indian teacher’s household. There are four dabbas lying open waiting to be packed. You toss the next phulka over as your other hand stirs the dal, which is threatening to boil over. Your ten-year-old shouts out from the bathroom saying he has forgotten to take a towel inside. Your spouse walks by muttering something about how these children don’t know the first thing about organizing themselves. He has just been asked for help with a social studies essay by your child who is in the eighth standard. You quickly turn off the stove, finish packing the boxes and make notes to yourself about dinner and the grocery shopping on your way home. But then you remember there is a staff meeting that may delay you, so you need to write down a list so that the forgetful spouse can take care of the purchases. There’s also the milkman to be paid, and also the electrician to be called for those repairs. You put the various papers and books into your schoolbag, ticking off on a mental checklist: class register, reference books, bills from the field trip….

So is handling a variety of roles really that much of a problem?

One might say that in the personal realm, we naturally take on a variety of tasks and responsibilities because there is no option. We slip into different mindsets – manager, cook, counsellor, caregiver and accountant – as the need arises in the household. So within us all exists the capacity to do many things at the same time. Of course, as the level of skill and knowledge demanded by different roles increases, or the complexity of the task intensifies, we may find ourselves in need of re-tooling. But the basic ability to re-engineer ourselves is there.

This issue of Teacher Plus looks at how we can equip ourselves to deal with our changing roles within the school environment. As we move from being responsible for a classroom to handling a department or an entire school, or as we shift into administrative or managerial roles, what are the new demands being placed on us? Are there specific ways in which these shifts can be managed and planned? Is there enough support?

After all, at home, we can always take recourse to forcing the forgetful spouse and disorganized children to help, or threaten them with empty tiffin boxes….

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