Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy New Year!!

How time flies! It was as if we just celebrated the arrival of 2009 and we are getting ready to bid farewell to the year already. I am inching closer to retirement with just 2010 in between. I think I am going to miss work but then I also thought I could not handle life after my children left home. Did life change? no, it didn't. Missing them is one thing but getting on with life is quite another thing. As the saying goes-

"If you love someone let them go......."

Would children feel comfortable thinking of a teary eyed mother missing them all the time? No, I think they want us to lead a cheerful and fruitful life so that they can pursue their interests. Similarly, much as I love my work, the next generation will have to take over while I make a graceful exit.

Then that brings me to another question that bothers me. Am I leaving the place the way I got it? I am afraid not. Our college now boasts of a huge building and a library that has grown threefold. The size of my lab is thrice the size of the lab I joined. But to be frank the input from us is much less when compared to the time I joined.

What went wrong?

The priorities of students has changed. In my drawing room I have an expensive card wishing me a "happy teacher's Day" given by the Student's union. This was not the practice 25 - 30 years back. In fact Teacher's Day celebrations were limited to schools. These days students touch our feet before exams and after results. They never did so earlier. May be I look old enough to be revered in this manner but I do not rule out the influence of TV programmes as one of the reasons for this new aspect in the student teacher equation. I don't remember ever touching my teacher's feet as a student. But I am sure I loved and respected them in the same manner as the current bunch. Then there is the culture of saying 'bye teacher' after class. Luckily or unluckily we don't have girls saying 'Hi!' when we walk into a class.

My daughter says that the student/teacher relationship is very informal in USA and perhaps the trend is catching up in India too. Whatever be the nature of the relationship, whether cordial, formal or friendly, results should speak of a job well done. I am afraid that in our part of India the syllabus as well as teaching techniques are out dated and do not appeal to aspiring students. It is an open secret that deals are struck and money is exchanged at the time of a college teacher's appointment. The meritorious who expect to be selected on the basis of merit alone can laminate their certificates and place them in a showcase for all to see. If you expect to be paid as per the 6th pay recommendations you better learn the ways of the world! When the whole world knows these things how do we expect the kids we teach to be ignorant? So will the powers that be ensure quality teaching while we turn a blind eye to the appointment process? Is it asking for too much?

If quality is compromised then our students will say 'Bye teacher' and attend a coaching institute that helps them in their career and we can sit in empty libraries and labs welcoming the odd student who makes an entry by mistake.

No, I do not want to put you off with my ramblings. Those of you with young children, please see to it that your children acquire an education that encourages them to reason and think for themselves. Expensive school claiming to provide education at par with internatinal standards are mushrooming all over the place. These schools take their students to USA and Europe for excursions. But whether it is worth the trouble is something that needs to be checked.

So in the final year of my teaching career I plan to make a few resolutions-

1. I am not going to get angry with the student who wants to adjust her classes in college to attend a computer class or MBA coaching. The outdated syllabus that is followed in our college will get them nowhere and if she has a bright future in mind I have to adjust according to her timings or accept being ignored.

2. I will mentally prepare myself to respond cheerfully to the student who says 'Hi teacher' instead of the old fashioned 'good morning or good afternoon'.

3. When the students pulls a stool and sits down in front of me I'll try my best to forget the fact that as a student I'd stand in front of the staff room and ask for permission to submit my record work and it was usually the peon that came to collect my practical record. Even if I remembered it I'd keep it to myself.

4. I'll get used to the new dance numbers like 'pappu can't dance saala' and stop lecturing on how classical dance forms were more appealing when compared to the modern version which to my ageing eyes seem like an ill practised physical exercise. May be I'll sport a cooling glass to hide the disappointment in my optical/occular expression.

5. Twenty five years back I expected students to draw from the specimen provided. Ten years back I gave them my B. Sc and M. Sc records for reference. Five years back I stopped complaining when they copied diagrams from the text book unless they were highly objectionable. Nowadays I sign anything they submit as record work. Progressive evolution I suppose. Young aspirants to a lecturer's post be prepared to get photocopies of book diagrams as record work. Already we have students downloading matter for project work from the internet without putting in even the minimum amount of preparation but examiners are glad that the copied material pertains to our subject. In future you may have Biology students submitting project work in Psychology. After all all disciplines merge at a higher level don't they??

In short I'll try my best to accept the changes taking place in society as long as it is beneficial. I may crib a little and sound critical on an occasion or two. But I do understand that a society can never be static. It has to be dynamic and progressive and though it is okay to remember 'the good old days' it is never proper to expect what worked in our times to be appropriate now.

A Happy New year to one and all of you.


feddabonn said...

i've often heard this lament about the syllabus being out of date etc. i'm not so sure.

i joined what was in my time considered the 'loser' stream- arts. and then sealed my fate by majoring in english. everyone (including myself) were rather concerned about my 'career'. but looking back, i think it is precisely the non-career based study that has helped me think and engage with the world. i find myself wishing i could sit through those lectures on political science and history again...i'm sure it'll throw light, for instance on the issues of representation dragged out by the telengana furore. and my career hasn't been too bad either, i was in middle management at a large telecom by my late 20s.

while i *do agree courses could be more relevant, an education that is only focused on earning you money will only help you do that-earn money. nor can a syllabus cannot teach you tools of the future, especially when those tools have not been discovered yet. actually, as you have pointed out, we need better *teachers. a syllabus can do nothing if the *teachers don't care. i learnt of anarchy and freedom from a history teacher in a small college of a remote town. i'd wish such teachers on everybody!

ok, rant over. :) happy new year! i have been lurking on your blog for a while, and have just found some dutch courage to leave a comment, lol.

hillgrandmom said...

Happy New Year HHG and all the best for a content and joyful 2010.
I agree that syllabi should be made more relevant.About the changes in the students and their behaviour, I'm pretty sure our elders felt the same about us! After all change is inevitable.

Usha said...

Interesting observations on the changes from our times. while watching scenes set in colleges in recent films I used to wonder if colleges are really like that but it seems they are. :)
A very happy 010 to you too!

Ardra said...

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful year ahead...

Hip Grandma said...

feddabonn:Welcome here. I was also of the opinion that losers study arts. But a class mate of mine who majored in Economics and seniors who took up English made me realise how much fun it was studyung a ciurse close to your heart.I too enjoyed my English classses and could sit thro'them again.

hillgmom:'About the changes in the students and their behaviour, I'm pretty sure our elders felt the same about us!'
Oh yes they did feel so. But they had the guts to speak their minds unlike us :-)).

usha:I suppose it is generatio gap that causes the likes if me to express surprise. My friend and cilleague was shacked to note that her son studying in the 12th placed a hand on his teacher's shoilders while a group of them were discussing something with her. The teacher aged around 25 apparently had no problem with that.

Ardra:Thank you and wish you the same.

Ugich Konitari said...

HHG : Have a wonderful , safe , happy and healthful 2010, and hope we get to meet sometime this year !

Yes, so many things have changed since when we were students. We looked UP at our teachers. Nowadays, they look down, make fun of, and sometimes look the teachers in the eye. Actually, the gradient of "progress" is to blame. Its too high. And people still think someone became a teacher because he/she couldnt get any other job !

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

A very Happy New year HHG !

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

I wish you a very Happy New Year and hope you continue blogging as often as possible. I love reading your posts.

The teacher-student relationship has changed radically over the last few years but the syllabus remains outdated. Children stuff themselves with theory but if they had to relate what they learn to life and work, they feel clueless or confused. In India, so called international education franchises claim to make great changes but does it reach the right people? No, the effort at the grassroot level remains at zero because the teachers themselves need a different type of orientation to attend to the questions and learning difficulties of the children who come from very poor families. So much needs to be done and the whole country still rages and plunges into battle about the silliest issues like Ayodhya and Jinnah!

Hip Grandma said...

Ugich:I too hope we meet this year.With my brothers in Mumbai and you staying across the road it would be a shame if we don't.

CA:Thanks and wish you the same.

Swapna Raghu Sanand:Thank you and wish you the same. All those looking for a job cannot become teachers but with the dearth of good teachers schools do appoint people without any real interest or aptitude.

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Prats said...

Wishing you a wonderful 2010 and a great year ahead!!!

Sumana said...

A very happy new year HHG, as always your posts are eye openers and always have a lot of things to make us think.

Manasa said...

Changes are susceptible. Unlike olden days, students don't care if the teacher doesn't teach. Obtaining knowledge is easy vis internet and friends/cousins who are abroad.

Moreover, there is so much competition that if we don't update ourselves, chances are that we lose the game. And no one wants to be left behind. There isn't any point in mugging up something which is obsolete.

As you mentioned, when I was an engineering student, I too felt that the syllabus was rubbish which focussed more on theory than practicals. We were supposed to mug up theorems and lab programs just for the sake of clearing with highest marks so that the college gets high results and they could publish in their brochure to attract more students the next year.

In US, education system is: Think and Apply. Thats why most students study abroad. I don't see it happen in India. Its just a rats race here. Study for exam, score well, get placed and settle.

If you meet any grad student studying in US, their level of thinking is much higher than students studying here.

Just my 10 cents.

vishesh said...

As for records..I hold a record of redrawing the digestive system of amoeba 5 times I guess :P And funnily enough that teacher is still one of my fav teachers- she didn't scold or anything, was very friendly but expected her work to be perfect :)

I guess I am a different blend, I enjoy classical as well as the modern(though that which as some quality in it). It's lesser to do with the west, but more to do with the environment we grow up in.

At 18, I am doing a professional parents did it when they were in their 20s after a degree...there is a difference, in terms of objective, aims etc.

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Hip Grandma said...

prats:Thanks and wish you the same.

sumana:Thank you and same to you.I haven't been too well of late so i have not checked posts or posted anything.

Manasa: you are right.Unless a course encourages one to think and apply it in your work place just mugging up won't help and those who wish to succeed may not want to waste time learning things that don't really help them. But learning the basics is also important.

vishesh:I don't place you in the same category as the average student. People like you can thrive anywhere. I am concerned about mediocre and below average students who avoid classes and attend coaching centres that only help intelligent students do better and are not at all conducive to mediocre students. These students think that it is fashionable to attend exoensive coaching centres.