The attributes of a successful teacher
I have received more from my students than I could give them
HOW UNPREPARED I was when I began teaching! Soon I understood there is no better way to learn how to teach than through teaching. I do not claim to be a great teacher but I got the opportunity to interact with the brightest minds. In one sense I am successful as I have received more from my students than I could give them. I understand that the knowledge of `what is' is necessary but more important is to understand `what it should be.' I have learnt that aesthetic development of the senses is as important as the intellectual.
They can also be good
I did my schooling in a corporation school. Before you draw any conclusion let me tell you that it was one of the best primary schools in Kanpur. Even corporation schools can be good. I still very fondly remember our school's headmistress. She was incidentally our city municipal commissioner's wife. You might argue that she could not have managed the school so well if she was not the commissioner's wife. It could be a possibility but the commitment and dedication with which she ran the school was entirely her own. I am happy and proud that I was once a student of this school. I feel so sad when I see the school now for it has lost most of its glory.
Dislike for an authoritarian learning system is now an accepted fact. I was very much surprised when I learnt that Einstein was not liked by his teachers; the reason, his independence. It is very unfortunate that in many schools this situation still prevails.
I support the view that academic credentials are not sufficient to become a successful teacher. Eleanor Roosevelt rightly observed "I have known many erudite and scholarly men and women who were dismal failures as teachers. I have known some less learned teachers who had the gift of inspiring youth and sending them on heights where perhaps they themselves were unable to follow."
A great teacher not only gives knowledge and information to the students but also emotional and moral moorings. It is not surprising that the qualities students like most in teachers are flexibility in approach, a deep sense of understanding of student psyche, communication skills for interaction with all categories of students, and above all, a sense of humour to liven up the classroom.
The quality of teacher-student relationship depends on how well responsibilities are understood and undertaken by both the sides. This relationship cannot sustain unless a student has respect for his teacher and the teacher a close rapport with the students. We have to remember that respect does not come attached with the teaching profession. It has to be earned. One has to take genuine interest in his students. I tried to understand their problems; be they due to parental or peer pressure, low self esteem, money worries, etc.
In this `shrinking' and `techno bulged' world the difference between a trained worker and a merely enthusiastic worker is clearly evident. Although the primary role of a teacher will not change, classrooms will be more interactive. Students will have more course and career options. Teachers will be needed to adapt to new technologies. They will also have to deal with students who presumably know or want to know `where they are supposed to be going.' Increasingly we have to get used to and cope with less secure environment, students exposed to higher academic pressures, job competitions and consumerism, etc.
The education system should have an inbuilt mechanism to recognise the good, assist the struggling and get rid of the incompetent. The traditional examination system will undergo major changes. The teachers will be assessed by their peers and also evaluated by their students. I have the experience of performance evaluation by my students. All I can say is that it has helped me understand my students better, also prompted me to reach out to meet their expectations, and importantly, contributed to see myself evolve as an understanding teacher.
We have to recognise that training is expensive to impart as well as to receive. There is and will be confusion due to the mushrooming of the so-called teaching shops. In due course some of them will disappear and only quality institutions will survive. I expect alumni will have a greater role in the development of their alma mater.
It gives me great satisfaction that I am a teacher. I have understood that classroom is not a room full of strangers. I have known that teacher's obligations to his student extend well beyond the classroom and formal schooling. "One repays a teacher badly, if one remains only a pupil." In keeping with the spirit of the time I am happy that my students are now my guides.
I gratefully remember my teachers who so patiently prepared me for what I am today and to take societal responsibilities among other things I value in life.
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