Responsible Teaching

chakky's picture

A Zen Koan goes like this.... Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!" "Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

This is sadly the state of the teachers in our country. Every teacher who comes out of the education system enters their job with the same set of ideals, i.e., they have the feeling that their degrees certify their knowledge and they know enough to teach. A teaching job in our society is today considered as a stable lifelong job with a regular income, no headaches, long vacations and fixed working hours. It is today considered a place best suited for women to work in. Is this what the teaching profession is all about?

By definition a teacher is a person who teach students or pupils, often a course of study or a practical skill. Our present day teachers take it upon them to live up to this ideology literally. They decide that they learn a subject and teach children according to the syllabus with no concern on what the students tastes are and how to go about it. During their B.Ed. Or M.Ed. Days, they learn the way their teachr teaches them and this is what they exhibit when they start teaching. “How to Teach” today has become one of the most controversial points today as it has become just another profession. There is neither passion in the want to mould our future generation nor the desire to pass on knowledge to the next generation.

Our ancient systems of Guru-Shishya relationships come back to the fore again. Why was that system there and what was the difference it had which is lacking today? Literally, 'Gu'= Darkness or ignorance. 'Ru'= Illumination One who brings light into darkness. Typically a Guru would choose his Shishya (Students) and hence he would always be able to choose the bunch whom he could mould. This ensured that the shishyas always became equally good. The passion of the person who becomes a Guru was to mold the next generation, to enlighten them. This was their passion and their objective. To attain knowledge so that their shishyas can excel better than them was their underlying theology.The teachers who practice this sort of relationship with their students is the rarest breed and are the toughest to get! A judgment of whether a teacher or organization is engaged in effective and responsible teaching will naturally be colored by the the judge's definition of what constitutes effective and responsible teaching. Is it determined by student performance on standardized tests, by student feedback, by social and emotional characteristics, by applied creative reasoning measures, or by demonstrations of memory and skill?

The debate over educational philosophy has remained the same throughout the educational reforms of the last eighty years. It is a debate over both the methods and aims of teaching, between those who believe that education should concern itself with intellectual discipline and the succeeding waves of innovators who offer the child's interest or the well--adjusted personality, self--expressiveness, or self--esteem as more attractive alternatives. When a school touts the belief that all students can learn, is it assuming all children are of equal intellectual capacity and can meet the same standards with uniform teaching methods; or are the standards set low enough that they can be met by even the weakest students.

Responsible teaching and Self Evaluation is the need of the hour. Every corporate and organization that depends on intellectual prowess of their employees today scathingly attack our education system saying it is not practical for today's work environment; Specially the IT and BPO industry. But the real truth that seems to come in is that our education system today lacks the quality and dedicated teachers that is required to mold the students best. If our nation has global leaders,industrialists who have come through these same education systems, then there must be something correct with our systems. It is the way this is communicated from teacher to students at different institutions that makes the difference.

How can a teacher know what is responsible teaching?

a) First and foremost is the change of mindset. A teacher should no longer consider Teaching as a job where they can work a relaxed 9am-5pm job and there is no risks or troubles. The job a teacher does is the most critical job that the world asks for them. They mold the doctors, engineers,teachers,scientists,accountants of tomorrow. If they slack in their jobs, if they decide the students are not important, the failure or the downfall of a nation can occur with the next generation! Hence every teacher should like the old guru-shishya relation take it upon them to do justice to the profession they have taken.

b) Unlearning & Re-learning Like the Koan that was stated above, every teacher needs to first come down to earth and realize their knowledge is not enough. Just teaching the syllabus before the exams is not enough.They need to impart knowledge. A teacher's happiness should not be simply in the marks her kids get, but with the enlightment she sees her students get. Have you seen the happiness in the eyes of a 3 year old child when she takes her first step or the first word she speaks? This is what each teacher should look to get out from her students, the happiness of having understood or learnt. For this every teacher should put the effort to identify the areas they have no knowledge in and work towards overcoming it. They should not sit with the attitude I have more than enough degrees to show for my knowledge and I dont need to learn anything more. A degree is just a sum total of the pass marks they got in various subjects and never a true aptitude of a person's knowledge in each area. Secondly they should realise that re-learning is needed only because whatever they know they are imparting to kids whose mindsets get fixed with whatever they teach and hence they should teach it the right way.

c) Self-Evaluation A teacher should set her criteria not as simply covering the syllabus in time or all her students passing the exam. A teacher should self-evaluate, take guidance from her older students on where she can improve and work towards it with a passion. A syllabus is made only to set a level. There will be students above this level and students below this level. A question that a teacher then should ask is, “Am I doing justice to each and every chilld in the class? Am I making them a better individual, preparing them well to face the world or am I just teaching them how to pass?”

d) Taking Initiatives A teacher should take the initiative to put in extra hours not simply to teach, but to learn new things she can impart to the students. Every ounce of right knowledge put into children help a long way to improve the standards of life and society within the institution, all over the country and the world. They should make it a point that they setout a way on how they go about improving the student all round along with it complete their syllabus too. The biggest thing every teacher should avoid is compalcency. Teaching year after year the same syllabus, the teacher feels the job as monotonous and would end up teaching from the mind and the heart. That is where the loss is, the students get only the book knowledge just like a automated machine. This will change their outlook to that subject and how they approach it.A teacher should remember, the syllabus may remain same but the students whose life gets affected changes year after year and so will their outlooks.

Let me take the US Educational System: In 1939, neurologist and dyslexia expert, Samuel T. Orton, publicized that slightly more than 10% of the school population have learning problems that are a result of an unestablished dominance of one brain hemisphere over the other. Difficulties that result include reading disability, disorders in speech, special disability in spelling, special disability in writing, failure to acquire skilled movements with normal ease and accuracy, difficulty in acquiring foreign languages after English has been mastered, and, as a secondary result, a very poor vocabulary acquisition which is to be seen in both the recognitive vocabulary as used in reading and in the recall vocabulary which is used in self--expression." Orton goes on to stress in his 1939 Neurological Explanation of the Reading Disability, the "importance of a complete series of examinations by someone who really understands the whole problem of unilateral cerebral dominance."

Orton points to 3 treatment outcomes: (1) To eradicate "the feeling of inferiority . . . and inadequacy" when the child understands the cause or source of his difficulty, and accepts that former charges against him ("stupidity, laziness, inattention, lack of effort") we're not the cause of his past failures. "This will often give him an adequate degree of self--confidence really to tackle the job of relearning a subject in which he has encountered failure." (2) To explain to parents the need for "the large amount of special work, with its implied need for extra charge by the school to carry on the remedial work properly." (3) "Explaining the disability to teachers so that they may gain an understanding . . . in its true sense, and not misinterpret his puzzles and confusions as due to inaccuracy, to slovenliness, to carelessness, to thoughtlessness, to lack of attention, to distractibility . . . is explainable on an organic basis, it helps . . . to reach that feeling of sympathy and tolerance which are cardinally essential to the most effective remedial training.”

Americans analysed this and did the approach of changing their educational systems from the likes of the British System we followed. The result was inspite the successful changes in the system, student performance was shocking sixty years later. A 1993 study by the United States Department of Education found that 90 million (47%) of Americans are barely literate. Only 2% (1 in 50) of all U.S. high school juniors can write well enough to reach national goals. A 1990 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP) report showed that 83% of 9 year--olds could not read well enough to research for specific information, interrelate ideas, and make generalizations." In 1997, the National Center for Education Statistics released its latest scorecard of American education. The statistics point to a floundering ship. Almost 93% of graduating 17 year-olds do not show proficiency in multi-step problem solving and algebra. An alarming 1 of every 4.5 American adults (22%) cannot perform simple arithmetic. Only 56% of exiting 17 year--olds can compute decimals, fractions, and percentages.

This is where our systems seem to be better, just the way it is being taught is where our kids show the failure.More than a change in the educational system, responsible teaching and proper self evaluation of a teacher's knowledge, attitude and approach is the single most important criteria, specially in today's India where we are highly dependent on our intellectual mass of One Billion to develop and progress as a nation in the highly knowledge centric fields of IT, BPO, Space Technology, Medical Sciences etc.




Oh Lord, lead me from the false, deluding earthly joys and pleasures to the Eternal Truth of Bliss (Ananda) of the Divine within.

Oh Lord, lead me from the darkness of ignorance binding me to this perishable body into the Eternal Light of the Soul Divine within.

Oh Lord, lead me from death to the Eternal Life, Divine, of oneness with you, within and all around forever and make me immortal.

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