Tag Archives: #teaching

the success of a young teacher

My young neice is a first time teacher. Her enthusiasm is palapable so is her nervousness. She is driven to do her best. ‘They should learn right, chechi. They should benefit from my classes. ‘

Eager to make a mark and make a difference she puts in efforts to learn the tricks of the trade. From introduction of a lesson to details about classroom activities to making the class engaging, she is an enthusiastic question bank. Our discussions are as interesting for me as it is for her.

As we discuss, I see in her a glimpse of how I was, fired up to make each class memorable, reading, making notes and learning new words.

Years of teaching has made me confident and comfortable in a classroom, so it will be with her or even better, given her commitment and sincerity to the job.

The fact that she deals with students in a government school makes it even more demanding, she has to constantly consider those who have had no exposure whatsoever to good language. Yet, the teacher is excited and committed and the students are lapping it up, reciprocating the teacher’s enthusiasm in equal terms.

Many years back, I taught at Ganapat Boys High School in Calicut for just 3 months and that experience was an eye opener for the beginner in me. In a classroom of repeaters, I could with some affection and positive remarks generate enthusiasm for learning. I remember breaking in my heart when the kids in the classroom, spoke of their ambitions, ‘I want to be a mechanic’,’I will run a watch repair shop’, ‘I will become a bus conductor’. It looked as if the fact that they had failed a year or two has reduced the scope of their dreams and aspirations. It must have been such a painful experience to go home and be reminded only of their academic failure and be told the same at school. While I was warned of the indifference of the students in the class, I found them very supportive and willing to understand and learn. I guess a little compassion and understanding is all it takes to make a child ‘whole’ again.

It is therefore, touching to see young teachers being so kind and willing to learn and grow, it speaks good for all of us. But mostly I am just happy to witness this process of evolution of the nervous new comer finding her feet and her voice in the class room and her colleagues and students showering praises on her as she does it.

A helping hand and a smile helps anyone, even teachers, yes, more so, teachers because a teacher is in a unique position of being able to give joy to many little guys and girls and that many homes, if you think about it.

Go on then, reach out to a teacher you know and tell him/her of the good work they do, they also deserve a few good words.

Am I not as smart? To Remedial or not

Am I not smart enough? Is that why I am in this remedial class? Why have you so segregated us?

Often and on, we in the teaching community face this question from students who we chose to give some extra training or attention.

For the years I have been a remedial teacher and have conducted remedial classes to many students. We have had fun in these classes, my students and I, whenever I have been successful in winning their confidence and have ensured them that they are in good hands and that this is not a punishment, it definitely is not.

Though I remember once I had mentioned the need for the child to focus more in education or learning, in this case, English, which was my subject, to my great shock and extreme shame, the father had lifted his hand to hit the child right in front of me and other parents. I felt guilty and rightly so for having been the reason for this public embarrassment for the child.

I realized the absolute significance of my words as a teacher to a parent and the child and how my words can impact their relationship and also impact the child and his/her mental and emotional health in the long run.

Thereafter I remember being extremely careful of what I speak and how so much so that students often chose to get their parents to meet me first, ‘mam, once you speak, no, they would joke, my parents will feel good and if someone complains later also, they will not take it badly.’ This sort of became a pact between some of my students and me.

I had another eye opening, life changing moment when I encountered another student of mine, Prabodh and tried to question his lack of interest in improving his English skills. Instead of accepting my observation or taking it negatively, Prabodh countered me, ‘Mam, I am very good at carpentry, Hindi, swimming and some other skills. Why should I be good at everything? It’s ok that I am not great at English’.

I laughed at my own folly, on hearing this confident counter. Indeed, why so? Why was I bent on shaming Prabodh for his poor English when I completely ignore his many other talents?

Again in one of my 11 th standard classes, I had another experience of a similar kind. I was advising Mukul Yadav to work on his English. The entire section of boys in the class, literally growled back, ‘ Mam, he is the state swimming champion. He is that and he is this….’ and while Mukul basked in the glory of collective compliments, I definitely had to retract my statement and politely add, ‘well, no harm in learning English as well!’.

But what am I driving at? I am trying here to point that to build on a new skill set, we need to acknowledge and appreciate, what is already present.

For example, when some of my students hesitate to speak in English, I allow them to speak in their mother tongue in the class. The class applauds the speech, poetry or any other presentation. This adds to the confidence of the student. I then gently interject to point out that it is a matter of pride to be able to speak your mother tongue fluently. It is a great achievement indeed.

While this being so, we still need to build our English skills, only because it is language in which academic interactions and expressions happen mostly, at least in our country. There fore we need to acquire this skill set.

This I have seen has often helped me to not shame a student for the skill he/she has already, but emphasize that we only need to build and improve on what is missing and needs betterment.

In my early years of teaching English, I have often approached the topic of imparting English language skills with an evangelistic zeal, somewhere though, after much reflection, and humbled by various experiences, I realized that gentle persuasion works better than any kind of shaming.

Acknowledge the existing skill set of the student.

Give him the credit he deserves.

Gently reason out the need to learn a new skill.

Most often than not, the student decides to collaborate with you in picking up the new skill, which he sees is going to benefit him.

Mission accomplished 🙂

Collaborative learning makes classrooms healthy happy spaces to be in for the teacher, as well as the student.