Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions

“A good teacher can inspire, hope, ignite the imagination, and instil a love of learning.” - Brad Henry.

In my view a true teacher must be a true educator. He or She should enable a child to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life. Teachers must provide opportunities  to enhance the student's creative expression and the capacity for aesthetic expression. It is a character-building process that sows within an individual seed of simplicity and service values and helps a child blossom into a beautiful human being. It is necessary to mould the child in their attitudes, values and ideas. This is the only way towards a better tomorrow. In my view  it is essential for a teacher to instill in their minds a dream, a vision, a burning passion for achieving lofty goals. It is essential for a teacher to inspire a child  to become original thinker, innovative scientists  and creative artists and serve their society, country and the world. They must have freedom to discover, to create and to grow. Students must be trained to become sensitive to the surrounding and society. 

As students are never passive learners, they are always active learners. A teacher should inculcate values through literature, stories, autobiographies, biographies of great persons, poetry,music and drama. All the activities and experiences to which the children are exposed either in the classroom or outside the classroom, on the play field, in the laboratory and the library should be value oriented because students can eff ortlessly pick up values like self-discipline, compassion, self-control and sense of responsibility. Teachers are the role models  and play a major role in shaping the young learners. A child is a precious gift, and nurturing them with love and care is as teacher's sacred responsibility as students learn from their teachers' conduct as they emulate their teachers. The turning point in throwing up is when teachers can spire an urge for innovation, a spirit of compassion for the world around and a passion for becoming an achiever but remain deeply rooted in human values. According to my view a teacher must act as co-learner and facilitator. After all in words of Gilbert Hiest “A Good teacher is a determined person” and this determination and grit makes the teacher a sculptor who carves out marvelous pieces of work i.e. confident and honest students.

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." - Albert Einstien
- Girja Koul is a senior teacher at the DBN Amarvilla School, you can contact her by email gkl.av@dbntrust.in

Who is a child and who is a teacher? Part 2

Yesterday five years old Amrita came home and opened her tuition notebook. She said, “Mother told to ask you to help me do this.” I looked into the book. Her tuition teacher had scribbled A, B,C,D…till L. She was supposed to copy it in the empty lines. I asked her, “Do you know this?”
Holding her breath, she said, “She just gives me to write. She doesn’t teach anything. (Likhati hai. Padati nahi).” For some time I was stuck. There was a truth in her message. The child knew there’s a difference between just writing and actually learning.
I wasn’t happy that I have to make her do something that she and I don’t like. Her mother was sending her to tuitions and I was being forced to make her do her tuition’s homework.
So I thought of making it fun. We started to sing – A, B, C, D…..after singing few times, Amrita started to dance; I asked her to do so. Sometimes like a bird, sometimes like a butterfly! But after her D, every time, she would said F,G,G….We sang many times, but it remained F,G,G. I was feeling irritated and was conscious that my irritation shouldn’t reflect on her. I didn’t want my irritation to touch her. That would be so much against the compassion, I practice! So we let it be F,G,G ☺
While taking out her eraser from her bag, Amrita’s money fell out – few one rupee, two rupees and a five rupee coins; she said, “I’m saving them. When I go to my village, I’ll give to my sister.” And then she told me that all her sisters (cousins) live in the village.
When that day her mother came to pick her up, she told me how Amrita doesn’t spend her pocket money. She said, “The younger one wants everything for herself and this one doesn’t want anything.”
Then she went about describing how she bought a Johnson’s baby soap for her baby brother. I said, “Amita, why did you not buy soap for yourself but your brother?” She became a little hesitant, her head bent down, a little embarrassed as if she didn’t like this being told, a little irritated. She said, “I already have for myself.”
An educator would understand this child has a compassionate heart and this becomes tricky when the younger sibling seeks attention. For parents start to draw comparison as Amrita’s mother has started to do and feel irritated with her younger daughter. She’s just not like Amrita!
Let’s get back to the homework. As soon as Amrita finished it, she said, “Yesterday you mentioned that we would draw my dad.” I said, “Ok, we’ll draw.”
“We’ll draw a flower also,” she continued. Amrita has been to school just for a month before the summer vacations and her teacher had taught her number digits till 10. “She has taught us to draw a flag and to draw a flower,” Amrita said.
Amrita’s mother has never been to school and wants a better future for her children. Polio disabled her husband when he was a child. He now works as a sweeper and though the couple understand that the tuition teacher is not teaching well they have no way to identity that and help their child. Millions of parents in India are like that. They don’t know how to help their child as their world changes.
Amrita told me that the tuition teacher beats her. “She hits with a stick at the back. Bahoot dukhta hai (it hurts badly),” she said. Later her mother told me the tuition teacher is a middle aged woman with three grown up kids and at times, she makes her children teach the little ones and asks her son to beat up the little girls. I wonder how many children she would have mistreated like this in her life – how many wounds she would have inflicted on their psyche. Doesn’t it hurt her to hurt such tender, small children?
I handed over a cushion and a wooden big spoon to Amrita and asked her to show me how the teacher beats her. She put the cushion in front of her like a drum and beat it four times, the last one being the one when she raised her arm the highest and the strongest.
Trauma gets deep rooted in the psyche of a child, as much as love does!
The next day when Amrita came home, she had on her own learned to say E,F,G. I was glad in two hours she had learned through play all that the tuition teacher couldn’t teach her through stick. Next day I made her mother understand that Amrita has no need to go to the extra tuition class.
Before she left for the day Amrita said pointing at the lonely five rupee coin in her purse, “My mother doesn’t have bindiya. I’ll buy her one (sachet) with this. These days, she put a dot on her head with the nail polish.”
While mentioning this, her five years old face was intensely innocent, very deep in thoughts, concerned and sensitive about her mother’s situation.  She’s a child – observant, kind, and responsible. No one has taught this to her. An educator’s responsibility is to nurture it and strengthen it. Build her character on these foundations; teach her to rely on her strengths when her own fears threaten her sense of belief.
~ Venus Upadhayaya
Email: venusupadhayaya@gmail.com

The Economist on--How to make a good teacher

What matters in schools is teachers. Fortunately, teaching can be taught

Jun 11th, 2016 | From the print edition
FORGET smart uniforms and small classes. The secret to stellar grades and thriving students is teachers. One American study found that in a single year’s teaching the top 10% of teachers impart three times as much learning to their pupils as the worst 10% do. Another suggests that, if black pupils were taught by the best quarter of teachers, the gap between their achievement and that of white pupils would disappear. 
But efforts to ensure that every teacher can teach are hobbled by the tenacious myth that good teachers are born, not made. Classroom heroes like Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society” or Michelle Pfeiffer in “Dangerous Minds” are endowed with exceptional, innate inspirational powers. Government policies, which often start from the same assumption, seek to raise teaching standards by attracting high-flying graduates to join the profession and prodding bad teachers to leave. Teachers’ unions, meanwhile, insist that if only their members were set free from central diktat, excellence would follow.
    The premise that teaching ability is something you either have or don’t is mistaken. A new breed of teacher-trainers is founding a rigorous science of pedagogy. The aim is to make ordinary teachers great, just as sports coaches help athletes of all abilities to improve their personal best (see article). Done right, this will revolutionise schools and change lives.
    Quis docebit ipsos doctores?
    Education has a history of lurching from one miracle solution to the next. The best of them even do some good. Teach for America, and the dozens of organisations it has inspired in other countries, have brought ambitious, energetic new graduates into the profession. And dismissing teachers for bad performance has boosted results in Washington, DC, and elsewhere. But each approach has its limits. Teaching is a mass profession: it cannot grab all the top graduates, year after year. When poor teachers are fired, new ones are needed—and they will have been trained in the very same system that failed to make fine teachers out of their predecessors.

    Who is a child and who is a teacher? Part 1

    My helper, Kavita has never been to school. She’s in her early twenties and has three children, the eldest one is five years and the youngest is few months old. Her five years old started going to school this April.

    One day she said, “I pay 150 rupees for her extra tuition. I and my husband have never been to school, so we don’t know how to help her.” It set me thinking. I told her I can help the child on Sundays. “Bring her along with her books,” I said.
    Today this child came home with her small school bag; on her way to my home she had purchased a pencil and a notebook. As soon as she came in, she sat cross-legged on the carpet, put her bag in front of her, took out her notebook and pencil and started sharpening the pencil. She didn’t speak a word, nor did she look at me. I asked her if she goes to school and she nodded her head – confident buy shy; As if observing everything, taking the time to decide what way to respond to a new teacher.
    I thought this was how she would be studying at school and at her extra tuition classes - the first spaces of formal education in her life. “Do these spaces care about nurturing her mind,” I thought. “School would be about learning to read and write, and tuition would be about doing the homework. There’s no monitoring of quality in both these places. Where is her education happening? Mostly at home with her parents!”
    She waited for my instructions. I knew her mother works very hard, and the new notebook that she had just opened isn’t an easy purchase.
    I looked into my books and found an unruled notebook. I stole her sight and gently tore the two pages I had scribbled in a recent conference. I handed it over to her. I didn’t want my act of tearing pages to catch on her mind as a fun activity. I didn’t want it to be embedded in her mind as an insensitive act either. I was sensitive to what I was imparting her through my behaviour.
    I asked her to write what she knows, and she started to write, “1,2,3,4,5…..” It went on till ten. I asked her to read it along. I asked her later to hide what she has written with her hand and write again. When she forgot to write six, I asked her to peep through her hand and find out what it was that she forgot. For her, the fun was more to play hide and seek with numbers. It was a play to make mistakes, forget and then learn from one’s own self. All this while I spoke and instructed her the least, there was no anxiety in my bearing, no bearing of being a teacher – I was just a helper to her, the way her mother is to me in the kitchen.
    Next, we went on to draw; I asked her to draw a flower. “Have you seen a flower? Draw what you have seen,” I said.
    And this is what we did together. The first two, smaller ones are done completely untaught. Then I drew a flower and asked her to draw her flower.
    Look intently my dear educators; both the flowers have a sense of character. While I drew something that’s comprehensible, she drew something out of sheer involvement. Her is an emotive drawing, mine is not. A professional artist may look into her lines, their boldness, their strength, fluency, rhythm and linkages and then decide if the child has a talent. It needs the skill to appreciate talent! It needs a sensitive, skilled, intelligent teacher to appreciate and nurture talent. And all the while a teacher teachers and nurtures the skill, he/she simultaneously imparts behaviour and character by example.
    I observed that the more she got involved in colouring and drawing, the more she turned verbally expressive in her native tongue, Bhojpuri. I realized how important her native tongue is in tuning her to herself and to build her comprehension and learning abilities. Language reinforces identity, character and confidence – native language and learning abilities are closely linked. I thought I must find out more about this.
    We finished drawing and colouring the flower. Her mother was cleaning the cupboard in the kitchen. Knowing well that this is the first time she’s drawing, I asked the child to draw her mother. Her eyes shone with joy and excitement and her mother had a childlike glee on her face.
    The child drew a straight line and then looked at me seeking instruction.
    I said, “Ok, this is one side of your mother’s face. Now you draw the other side.” So she drew the other side of the face – another straight line and then drew the chin. When it came to drawing her mother’s head, I asked her to look at the mother and figure it out herself. She ran into the kitchen to her mother, excitedly came back and picked up her notebook as if she had discovered some truth.
    The joy of discovery and learning is so inherent in everyone – more in children. Don’t we kill it by means of too much emphasis on setting things right? And our ‘right’ is laden with notions, negative emotions and expectations. We kill a child’s joy of learning by our ignorance of who a child is!
    Once she had drawn the boundary of the face, she turned confident. I didn’t try to correct her. I didn’t tell her that it’s not looking realistic or that it’s wrong. I was remembering myself as a child – how I was taught to draw a tree and all my life I stopped to draw how I saw and experienced things myself. I always wanted to draw like my father who had trained in an art college. He drew in my scrap book like he drew on his college assignment book. He always drew better than me.
    I still remember the helicopter I drew copying my teacher’s drawing when I was four years and because it matched hers, I received a ‘good’, and that delighted me. My friends frowned because they didn’t receive a ‘good’. More than three decades later those friends of mine are no less than I. But at that time, it created a false sense of superiority in me and may be jealousy in them. And can you imagine that in India, we have teachers accessing children’s drawings and grading them and giving marks? Can you imagine – what it does to a child’s emotional being?
    Educators need to understand that a child’s drawings are emotive drawings and not neutrally descriptive – they are reflections of a child’s developing ability of comprehension, they are pictures of a child’s emotions and world. They are of a CHILD.
    My Mother, note the feet and the expression
    Getting back to my helper’s child, I just reinforced my confidence in her unfolding drawing and in her joy of discovery. I think by doing this I respected who she’s. I know only this can nurture her. I don’t want her to become someone else than herself. I don’t want her to grow up trying to become mentally, emotionally and spiritually someone else. I know the best way to nurture her is to tune her to her own abilities.
    When it came to drawing her mother’s legs, I observed that she didn’t draw two legs. She has been seeing her mother in clothes and to her eyes it appears the way she has drawn here. But my dear educators look at her lines, look at the fluidity and confidence in them. I hope I can build this up. I’m sure as her skills of detailed observation grow, so will grow her skills.
    When it came to feet, she had no idea what to do. So I asked her to look at her feet and draw and this is what she did. She drew them separately. I asked her to then draw a hand and she looked at her hand and drew it separately.
    We ended up our activity by colouring; she chose the colour, and she did it the way she wanted. We ended our activity by identifying and naming the body parts, and it was all so easy.
    Today morning, her mother said, “She was asking if she can come along.”
    I said, “I’m in a hurry to go to the office in the morning. Bring her for half an hour in the evening.”
    So this little girl and I have joyfully decided to continue our association. We are on a journey of learning and self-discovery together.  And we will keep sharing our joy with you, through this column titled – ‘Who is a child and who is a teacher?’
    ~ Venus Upadhayaya is a trainer and learner; you can contact her by email venusupadhayaya@gmail.com .

    Beating The Odds

    My Comments post reading the second chapter of the book 'Is your child ready to face the world?'  By Dr Anupam Sibal.

    Beating the odds means creating the school with a soul. As an educator or teacher, we need to ask ourselves, why we became teachers? What do we want from our students?  Do we want them to be efficient test-takers or do we want them to be filled with the wonder of learning? An education for the child is complete when each child is provided with the tools to reach his or her full potential. As teachers, we are not accountable to the people but to the students or kids. Thus, we need to create a school with a soul. 

    I mean a school with soul is one where all staff members work from their heart and keep the child at the centre of the curriculum. Our challenge is that we all must do our part. In my opinion, we can change our school, the challenge is to dedicate ourselves to creating soulful school but truly touch hearts and educate minds. Then we can say our child is ready to face the world. An effective teacher must have formal teacher training, hold some certification and hold high expectations for themselves and their students, dedicate extra time to instructional preparation and reflection, and see teaching as and art. Believe all students can succeed, help students make connections between community, nation, world and self. 

    Teaching from the perspective of pulling knowledge out instead of 'pushing in knowledge'. There is the need for extended interaction beyond the classroom. Demonstrating a connect with all students, encouraging a community of learners, encouraging students to learn collaboratively, viewing knowledge critically, teaching content with passion, helping students develop necessary skills,  seeing excellence as complex but taking account of student diversity and differences. Frequent instruction in skills and strategies, masterful classroom management, positive classroom climate and activities that are appropriate, meaningfully and challenging. This will make the child ready to face the world.

    - Girja Koul, is a teacher at the DBN Amarvilla School in Jammu, her email is gkl.av@dbntrust.in

    Humility must be consistently modeled as a lifestyle

    Is your child ready to face the world?  
    By Dr Anupam Sibal

    After reading the first lesson of the book l felt having a humble attitude does not mean we shouldn't acknowledge or be proud of our talents, strengths and accomplishments. However we should use them in the service of others. Humility is something we choose,  it does not come automatically to most of us. True leaders serve their followers and the best teachers work for their students and make their child ready to face the world. As a teacher I think that humility is also an associate of gratitude, and it is an attribute  that simply oozes in class. I think there are some ways to teach humility to our  children.

    Humility must be consistently modeled as a lifestyle, not with on again, off again examples, i.e never underestimate the power of teaching through examples.  

    1. Build them up
    2. Encourage and help them to be the very best they can be, no matter what they do. 3. Humility works best when our child has actually achieved something! We should help our child achieve with confidence.
    4. Make sure they understand where their value comes from.
    5.Teacher should never humiliate  the child.
    6.Teach them to serve. Serve the homeless. Serve the poor. Serve their family. Serve one another.
    7. Coach them on how to respond.
    8. Teach them how to apologize.  
    9. Teach them to give thanks.

    Yes, teaching and learning require courage and humility does matter. Whether we are teachers or students, we must learn to be self-reflective, critical of our personal beliefs and open to other's perspectives and ideas. As a teacher I must encourage the students like this, help when we can and don't expect rewards all the time for doing the right thing. We find activities we like and are good at but that doesn't mean we stop trying new things. The teacher listens to the students, respects, helps and encourages the students to try again after making mistakes.

    Here is a story of a retired soldier, he and his wife became owners of an academy of "Martial Arts". He also teaches at local schools. His philosophy of serving is quickly evident to those who know him. "I work for my students ," he said. "My students do not work for me. I don't order people. Any activity comes from the heart of the students who have a thirst for knowledge, if I work for them, if I do the best job I can, their thirst for knowledge and training will be even greater ". "I like to plant seeds  and watch them grow". He further said that the most important thing, "I'm not teaching people for them to become another Bruce Lee. I am training them to become Champions in the society ." During one seminar his own teacher, Karate master, asked the students, "What do you do to be a nice person?". He told the class, "I wash dishes". The whole class had the vision of a 10th degree Karate master doing the dishes and got the message that this is a way to help the family. "It is about humility", said the Karate master. "That is the seed, then it grows into the rest of the society. He noted that the basics are crucial. "It is like building a house", he said. "If you don't have a good foundation, it does not matter how beautiful the castle, it will crumble. Build a good foundation, then add to it."

    The message of this story is if a teacher is passionate about his/her students. He or she will alway ask them if they have  understood. Teacher is not the kind of person to take things at face value. Learning has to be logical. When the teacher teaches a technique, he or she also teaches why.  When someone understands why a technique works, retention will be better. The greatest part of teaching is seeing the changes in people. When children become more focussed. They do better at school. They do better at home or in the world.

    - Girja Koul, is a teacher at the DBN Amarvilla School in Jammu, her email is gkl.av@dbntrust.in.

    Good Schools of India Journal @ www.GSI.IN

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