The Two-Way Street of Learning

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shutterstock_56739871In the light of an obsolete Indian education system, Payal Mohta – in her capacity as a college student – lists some ingredients that make for good teachers and teaching

Schools and colleges, those hallowed halls of learning, are only as good as their educators. In a country like India where learning is sacred as it occurs at the feet of the guru, few have the courage to critique the guru’s teaching methods. At the same time, it is apparent that the standard of education is deteriorating. One could blame the system, as it equates education to rote memory, but this assumes that the teachers entrusted with the job are helpless. Not so. Syllabi and textbooks apart, teachers do have the power to impart meaningful education.

PARTNERS IN LEARNING
It’s time teachers and students abandon the guru-shisya hierarchy system and replace it with a sense of equality. When 20-year-old Manvi Ranghar’s literature professor from Rishi Valley School, Andhra Pradesh, did so she realised that “it is teachers like him who spark something in one, who make one want to learn for its own sake.” When students enter a classroom they aren’t looking to battle a teacher’s ego, but instead want the educator to respect their opinion even if they disagree with it. The students then feel that along with the educator their contribution is also valuable, making them more participative in the learning process.

CULTIVATING LIFE SKILLS
Syllabus finished. Notes dictated. Marks allotted. None of these generic tasks are considered ‘good’ teaching by students. We want teaching to be such that it will empower us in our future professional and personal lives. 22-year-old Utsav Chadha certainly received such teaching when he says that as an art student he was taught “to be attentive about the details in life that we generally tend to overlook and to appreciate how popular art was portrayed and interpreted” by his professor who applied semiotics to pieces of art that inspired the students.

THE PASSIONATE CONNECT
Young people are thirsty for passion, even intellectually! If we are taught by a teacher who doesn’t feel strongly for the subject he or she is teaching, it is frustrating for students who are interested in it and impoverishing for those who aren’t. For 18-yearold Hriyanka Shah her passionate economics teacher at Bombay International School made all the difference. Hriyanka now says, “At the end of class 12 I’m more inclined to pick up an economics journal over any gossip magazine!”

RAISING THE BAR
Not all of us are talented but we all have varying degrees of potential in us. As students in our young formative years we don’t always recognise this and often don’t value it either. For 16-year-old Aishwariya Abbot and her classmates at Billabong High School, Bhopal, their first attempt at every answer or essay written in their English class was never acceptable by their teacher. Abbot recalls, “Even the smartest student in our batch succeeded at their fourth attempt. Today I am grateful that she always pushed us to do our best, because today I thoroughly ponder and only then pen down what I think my teacher would approve of as excellent!” It is this kind of demands made from teachers that give us a realistic idea about our true potential, and that makes us grounded individuals.

LEAVING THE COMFORT ZONE
The teacher who made an impact on 16-year-old Neeva Desai was her class 10 English teacher who often went beyond the prescribed syllabus to talk to her class about rape, assault, animal cruelty, discrimination and other issues plaguing the world. Desai recalls, “In her classes I felt the presence of an internal stir of inquisitiveness and strong feeling of being disturbed.” As students we want our educators to jolt us back into realities we comfortably choose to ignore. Only then will we recognise our own prejudices, passions, causes and everything else that forms one’s identity.

PLAYING DIVERSE ROLES
Though no student likes their teacher to interfere with their personal lives, we do appreciate and value them more when their concerns are more than just our academic performance. 20-year-old Shriya Ravishankar recounts, “My mother never had to worry about me wasting dal again,” when at age six her class 1 teacher called her up at home to persuade her to eat dal. Such concerns and gestures by teachers give them roles of parents and friends in the lives of their students. This serves no other purpose for the student and teacher but the joy of sharing a much deeper and intimate relationship. These are the moments we remember later in our lives.

TEACHERS SAY
“A good teacher is never afraid of learning. When you go into a classroom there are certain things you know and that you are there to impart, but unless you are open to the idea that there are many things you don’t know and that you could learn, you will never be a good teacher.”
-Dr Krupa Shandilya, Amherst College, USA Krupa Shandilya

“Teaching that is participative, inclusive, interactive and which benefits both the learner and the teacher/facilitator is what I consider good teaching. A learning environment that is sensitive to the needs and capabilities of all its pupils bespeaks a good teacher.”
-Kaveri Dutt, Principal, Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata, Kaveri Dutt

 

Volume 3 Issue 12