I grew up learning that a farmer or a postman are people who work long hours, regardless of the season, in order to help us but I do not remember a similar lesson eulogizing the teachers. My mother was a teacher for 22 years of her life. She hardly had any time for us and we ended up complaining. She always took the complaints in good spirit and continued teaching and guiding at every step. She would help us revise our lessons while cooking, append long hours helping us prepare for competitions, sit down to teach us craft work with the best of available resources and seasoned her lessons with new and innovative ideas. She was a power house of knowledge, information and her zeal and confidence never failed to inspire us and her students. What I intend to share is a sneak peek into the life of a teacher.
Today I find myself following in my mother’s footsteps. I have been a teacher for the last 14 years and should confess that I feel my profession has changed me. Every year I have a new batch of students who bring forth new challenges and believe me, each one of them is unique. The quest for knowledge is what we sail together for while the students leave eventually, the memories that we create together are experiences for life.
Every student is like a special flower that needs a different climate and soil to grow and every teacher is a gardener who knows the right kind of environment for these blossoms to nurture and grow. Like my mother, I always found new innovative ways to keep my students engaged and to boost their creativity.
Think about a swimming lesson with an instruction booklet! Is it possible to swim without an instructor or coach? He/she first himself needs to be good at his skills of swimming and then test the waters and wait for the students to dive into the pool, to support and give them confidence and make them feel safe! For a student, the coach becomes his life support! As a teacher, I feel the same weight of responsibility.
We are working with students whose entire lives have been immersed in the 21st-century media culture. In many countries, today’s students are referred to as ‘digital natives’ and today’s educators as ‘digital immigrants’. Various e-learning modules use interactive features such as threaded discussions, video conferencing and discussion forums and have proved to be important instructional tools for teachers with a way to create and deliver content, monitor student participation and assess the ‘digital learners’. Smartboards may not replace a teacher but may bring the whole world into our classrooms.
My students belong to a global community of people who live in different countries. Apart from technology, ‘global empathy and stewardship’ are essential components that a teacher needs to incorporate in her lessons for children belonging to the ‘me’ generation. Emphasis on team work and communication with people from different cultures is the need of the hour. Self-absorption in any form kills empathy. When we direct a child to focus on others, his world expands. His own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller and increase his capacity for connection or compassionate action. This can only happen when teachers dare to move outside their comfort zone and start collaborating globally. It is all about how teachers and students have to work together to create values for each other and the surrounding society.
“…..the big public conversation the nation is not having about education… whether an entire generation of kids will fail to make the grade in the global economy because they can’t think their way through abstract problems, work in teams, distinguish good information from bad, or speak a language other than English.” TIME Magazine, December 18, 2006
As a teacher, I feel responsible for this chaos if I do not have tailor-made plans to suit the needs of the 21st-century learners of my class. It is necessary to be a playful teacher and create art together. Say ‘yes’ to adventures often. Read them an extra story. Accept them for what they are, appreciate them and value their individuality. Be a sculptor and let them stand tall as unique master pieces, true and original to the core!