Friday, August 29, 2008

Happy Teacher's Day

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.

13 comments:

vishesh said...

well i can proudly say that,i have thought on my own and never mugged :) thankfully had teachers who encouraged me to do that and gave me my marks :) during my 10th though my social teacher refused to give me marks for i didn't write the same thing as in the text book...but i managed to show her i was right,by getting good marks in the board..:)

tessiewrites said...

in my case, i could never mug up.. i still can't... i did have tough time with a biology teacher when i was in the seventh grade... but my marks improved when i grew up... i must have improved the way i expressed stuff by then...

thanks for reminding me abt tht the spl day is just around the corner... i'll try and visit ma school this time :)

hillgrandmom said...

HHG, what a number of teachers and parents seem to forget is that teachers and parents have to work in tandem for the student's sake. When either of them abdicates their responsibilities, the student suffers.

ugich konitari said...

HHG, I have been lurking on your blog for some time. I live on a (higher education) campus, and we have schools here from KG till 12the here. While my children have finished with formal studying, I seem to recall that they too had teachers who insisted on word to word reproduction of answers taught in class. Its all become marks oriented, with unnecesary unit tests. I sometimes think that we had better school education in the older days. (the 50's which was my time ).....

rajk said...

I agree that teachers, almost everywhere, are overworked and underpaid. Even here in the US, teachers are paid a pittance, especially considering that we rely on them, to a great extent, to mould our children's personalities.
But then that is no excuse for penalising a child for no fault of his/hers.
Happy Teachers' Day to you!!

Tys on Ice said...

i wud love to hear ur ideas....my mother was a teacher who quit when she felt tht the school politics was isolating her becoz the students loved her....she was sought after by her students and took tutions free for a long time....i too taught in my college while i was preparing for my backlog caused due to my drug problems....

the truth is that i can identify with those parents...maybe its the pay...maybe its the lack of commitment but i have always felt that teaching is akin to being a doctor...its a call...its not a profession...its something that comes from within...

i hve been fortunate to see that there are many teachers out there who sees it that way...but its still not fair that they are dont command the respect they rightfuly deserve...or the rewards they rightfuly deserves....

i wish there was a law that tells that we pay back people who are responsible for our success...tht we give back for the people who are responsible for making us who we are...

and its always a double edged sword...

Renu said...

The incident you have written are quite common, even I face them, sometimesopposite also, like my daughter was a topper, so teacher never chked her copy properly, thinking that she wudnt make s mistake.
Though I also believe that money cant bring sincerity, but too much of parity in salries has stopped really many good people from coming into this profession.
Today there is no bond between students and teachers.
But there are still few people who take their jobs very seriously,like in Noida APJ there were two teachers, Mrs. Deewanjus and Mrs.Arora, whom their students just idolised. And in BITS Pilani ,professors were so comitted that studentswill sit outside the calssroom(as the room was full ) to listen to them.

Mampi said...

I stumbled on your blog from Dipali's and am glad I landed on this post questioning Teachers' attitudes. I myself teach in college and have found apathetic attitude towards students among fellow teachers. Are they threatened by originality?
We, in colleges, get the stuff prepared by school teachers. Some of them are doing really good jobs of being thorough with students' educations. Others, however, stick to the word in the book. It is the latter who are preparing muggers, much to the chagrin of a teacher who is teaching a PG class and is expected to cover questions from a GUIDE book.
Happy Teachers' Day to you too.

tessiewrites said...

found u from sunita's page :)

starry nights said...

wonderful post, most often parents alwys blame teachers when their child does not do well,I think the teacher and the child has to be held responsible and the parents.somehow parents also feel it is the sole duty of the teacher to teach their child.

Hip Grandma said...

HI ALL,
i am glad to have a sensitive audience who seem to agree with me.The truth is that we in India correlate education with livelihood whereas in developed countries it is not so.The stress on scoring high marks is such that an average student seems to lose out.There are umpteen cases reported where parents resort to underhand means to enable their children score a high percentage.more often than not these parents are in respectable positions with the right contacts.They keep track of the evaluation centres and shamelessly approach examiners with roll nos.i'll do a separate post on some such cases.The teacher is often in an unenviable position.The only saving grace is that merit still stands apart and we still have students who are motivated to actually work hard.

Aleta said...

I appreciated your post, not from a parent's point of view, as I have no children, but from the daughter of a teacher point of view. My Mom has taught for over 35 years and still enjoying her career. She has been given awards and received grants for her school for her scores during observation. She loves her work. Even after Katrina, she was one of the first children back in the school and going through "emotional fatigue" of being there for the children and working through our own survival. Mom is legally blind, but her children don't know - in fact, they say, "Mrs. Grimball, you have eyes in the back of your head" because she knows her students and has incredible hearing!

From that point of view, I move to a friend's perspective. One of my childhood friends has 2 children. She told me, "School has started again. I'm glad to bring the kids to school, but now I have 2 hours minimum of school work!" I had to smile. Here we are adults, in our late 30's, and she talks about homework! She sends her daughter to an expensive private school and refuses to allow her daughter anything low in scores. So much effort in the scores... I'm sure her children enjoy their childhood, but I don't recall my parents putting that much stress on our scores. My parents always told me, "Do your best. That is all that we ask." I graduated with honors, not because of their pressure, but rather because my brother told me one day, "Aleta, you are going with the average flow. If you studied just a little more, you could have honors." I figured that my brother was the smartest guy I knew and if he believed in me, there must be something there. *smiles* Sorry, didn't mean to ramble.

When you talk about education and teachers, I'm all ears (or eyes as the Internet will have it). I deeply respect the profession and though I am not a teacher, I take the lessons of learning into the field that I work. It's the ability to be patient and find a way of teaching that reaches the student/person/co-worker, etc.

Aleta said...

Lol... I meant to say, "one of the first teachers" back after Katrina! Whoops, there I go, typing faster than the mind functions!