With the teacher's day around the corner I felt inclined to do some introspection and tried to figure out why this profession has failed to charm the younger generation and why we face a dearth of devoted teachers even in urban areas. I am afraid I have no solution to offer and most of my questions remain unanswered.
There was a time when fathers had no time for their children and mothers being either uneducated or too busy with their household responsibilities found little or no time to check out if their wards were even able to understand what was being taught to them. Tuitions were unheard of and schools coached the weak students after class at a nominal cost. This was the practice in my college too. It was the whole and sole responsibility of the teacher to see to it that the student understood the basics of a subject.
Years later I happened to overhear the conversation between two mothers and it was something like this-
"My daughter has written the same answer that she had written in her class work copy. The teacher has marked it right in her note book and wrong in the unit test. I dare not question her since she may single out my child and demoralise her."
The other one added-
"I encouraged my daughter to think for herself and write in her own words but her teacher struck off the answer and gave her a zero."
According to these ladies the only solution was to send their children for tuition to the concerned teacher.
To be frank I was shocked. I had not faced any problem with my children's teachers nor did I pore into their copies checking each answer. But that was some 20 years back. Had times really changed that much? Was there a communication gap between parents, students and teachers? With educated parents taking serious note of their children's progress were the teachers off loading their responsibilities and expecting parents to do their work? Were they really and truly haressing students who did not opt to be coached by them for a hefty fee?
As a teacher in a college I don't have the responsibilities associated with school teachers. But I wish to say a few things in their defence.
School teachers are over worked and under a lot of pressure to complete the syllabus. However, that does not entitle them to tick a wrong answer and cross a right one. The simpler solution would be to discuss the answers in class encouraging students to actively participate in the discussion. Copies could be exchanged and trust me when I say that they would be quick to point out mistakes in their friend's answer.
Very often when a student tries to answer in her own words she is unable to express herself and ends up writing the opposite of what she means to say. But awarding a zero is no solution. The class should be involved and weak students should be encouraged to express themselves. Usually the more intelligent students are encouraged to dominate the discussion leaving the weaker ones to fend for themselves. A teacher's success ought to be measured not by the results obtained by the bright ones but rather by every little step taken by the weaker ones towards their betterment.
Teachers and students are not isolated pockets of society. They are complimentary factors in need of constant interaction. They talk of teachers being over worked and underpaid. But better pay has never ensured better work. Motivation for teachers should come from elsewhere. Let us take time to think how it may be achieved. I have a few ideas and maybe I'll take it up later.