Anjali Jhangiani
Saturday, 2 September 2017

With Teachers’ Day just round the corner, Anjali Jhangiani finds out how teachers and schools are adapting themselves to the changes in the education system

Month-long vacations, fixed timings, having free time in the evenings, and a special day when you are celebrated and made to feel special — these are all the perks you have for being a teacher. But who said it’s an easy job? One has to deal with a class full of kids, consisting of quiet ones, hyper ones, troublemakers, whiners and so on, and that requires a lot of skill and also passion for the vocation. 
As we get closer to Teachers’ Day, celebrated on September 5, we take a look at the different aspects of a teacher’s job, and how they are constantly adapting to the changes in their field.

The student community has changed over the decade. They have become more aware about current affairs. With access to the Internet, searching for information has become as easy as a click of a button. Sheela Anbarasu, senior primary teacher at C M International School says, “Because of technology, children are getting exposure to everything —  good and bad. They did not have this opportunity 15-16 years back. They went to library and did their research. But now, you can find everything on the Internet, and everyone has access to it. Students should use this medium to enhance their knowledge. At our school, students do their research about topics that are discussed in the classroom and the next day they discuss their findings and we all have a discussion session. It is up to us to teach them how to use this technology to their advantage.” 

She adds that one must be wary of the web, and youngsters must know that not all the information they find there is verified and true. 

Vaishali Dabeer, assistant teacher at Muktangan English School and Jr College, who has been teaching since 1997, says that teachers need to keep updating themselves according to the new generation of students. “I discuss current affairs with my students and link them to the things they need to learn in their syllabus. Like when demonetisation was announced, they saw people standing in long queues in front of ATMs and banks, so we discussed in class what it was all about. I have a WhatsApp group with my students. When the eclipse happened in the US recently, I sent them images of the eclipse that I got. They were happy to see them. We discussed the phenomenon in the class the next day,” says Dabeer. 

Vineeta Savadikar, a facilitator at City International School, says that she can make out how the maturity level among her students is increasing with every new batch. “When we have assemblies, the students nowadays are much more confident. There is an improvement in their language and this comes because they have been using social media. In fact, students now are more comfortable about presenting themselves in front of an audience,” she says. 

Teachers have never shied away from using teaching aids. But flash cards and charts have now been replaced with digital classrooms and e-learning. Dabeer feels that e-learning for subjects like Mathematics and Science is a boon. “For concepts like fourth dimensional geometry, or to explain the working of internal organs in Biology, it’s better to use e-learning in audio-visual format because when the students see it in a video, they understand it better. But the blackboard-and-chalk method of teaching is still a must, because we don’t only teach what is in the syllabus, but encourage a discussion and answer the questions they come up with. There is a personal touch, which is necessary. E-learning combined with this personal touch is the perfect combination,” says Dabeer. 

Savadikar says that teaching requires a personal touch. “We have smart boards in our classrooms, but only to support the teachers. In fact, in our school, we don’t call ourselves teachers, we are facilitators. We facilitate education. Students need to ask questions to learn, and they can do it with us,” she says.

Anbarasu, who has also been teaching for over 12 years, believes that e-learning is the way to go. She claims that it not only makes the lesson interesting for the students, but also encourages teachers to come up with power point presentations of their own to present in class. “Though we’ve been teaching for a long time, there is constant development and we too need to keep ourselves updated. Because of e-learning, we push ourselves to find out more information and make PPTs to present to our students. It is an enjoyable and learning experience for everyone,” she claims. 

Though the main criterion is to complete the syllabus for the year, education can never really be finished. Teachers take it upon themselves to instill moral values, and impart useful life lessons to their students. Savadikar strives to inculcate the values of punctuality, neatness and responsibility in her students. “How you present yourself is very important, and you must learn to do this well from a young age. I also make it a point to tell my students how they must take responsibility for their actions, how they must be responsible for themselves and their belongings,” she says. 

Dabeer speaks about the horrid game of Blue Whale with her students, because even though they must have already known about it, it is required for a teacher or/and parent to talk to them about it and give them some clarity so that they don’t fall prey to such things. She feels that teachers must be approachable enough for students to openly discuss anything on their minds. “We keep a lookout for changes in behavioural patterns in our students and even if they don’t reach out to us, we make an effort to talk to them and find out if anything is not right, and how we can help. This is why I discussed the Blue Whale game as well,” she informs. 

Since both parents are working nowadays, they don’t have the time to discuss sex education with their kids. “So boys and girls come up with different questions, and we discuss them,” she says. 

Anbarasu claims that the important concept of gender equality is something that has been imbibed in their students right from primary class. “There is no classification between boys and girls. All 30 students in the class are equal. Growing children must be given sex education also. They feel and see changes in their bodies and since parents have no time to sit and explain it to them, it is left to us to make them understand it. We also have ‘good touch, bad touch’ workshops for our students to make them aware about such things. Six to eight hours the students spend with us, so we feel that we have more responsibility. We make them feel comfortable so that they can come and share their concerns or thoughts with us,” says Anbarasu. 

Padmaja Chavali, principal at City International School, points out how there is a major shift in the thinking of the parents these days, due to which the concept of gurukul is slowly being wiped out. “Parents are of the opinion that they are paying fees so the school is answerable to them. They are probably speaking this way at home, and it reflects in the behaviour of the children in school. Though the teacher takes a lot of effort to answer whatever questions the students might come up with, sometimes s/he might be wrong or unaware, but since the students can find all the answers with one click, their respect towards the teacher is reduced,” she says, adding that the ‘single child attitude’ is also a concern. “When you buy expensive phones for your kid who is in Std 7, and then come and complain to us that he is stuck on his phone all day, it’s on you. We keep telling parents not to buy phones for the kids, but to no avail,” she says. 

Today, parents are seeking amenities rather than the quality of teachers when they look for a school for their kids, believes Rupali Dhamdhere, principal at CM International School. She adds that while some parents do quit high profile jobs in order to look after all the needs of their children, most parents don’t. “They try to compensate the lack of time spent with their kids with gifts. The outlook has changed according to the lifestyle. But I tell the parents that it is mandatory to spend time with their kids, they can’t leave everything to the teachers and the school. We have to work together for the betterment of the child,” she says. 

Utkarsha Keni, principal of pre primary and primary section at Muktangan adds that parents must indulge in activities like reading, playing a sport and such with their kids. “When they come to us with complaints of bad behaviour of their child, we try and explain to them that their child must be acting out in order to get attention. If they take time out of their busy schedules and spend an hour or so with them, help them with their homework, play a game or just talk about how they spent their day, they will see a positive difference in the behaviour of their child,” says Keni.

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