The forgotten “why” in education: redux

I wanted to revisit this topic and add some examples which added fuel to my thought process the other day. So here goes:

1. A teacher who was teaching 4th standard science wanted to explain the concept of gravitropism in plants. Negative gravitropism in shoots and positive in roots. Now, not a bad concept to choose to show audio/visuals, but, apart from the part that she was adamant that google should give her images to the terms she searched for and that she would not iterate, the bigger problem appeared when I asked her if she knew why it happened that in the same plant, two parts that are connected to each other behaved in this drastically different manner. Her answer shocked me. She said, I’m teaching 4th standard, I don’t need to know this! Well….

2. Another teacher wanted to cover solar system for primary class again. This time round the situation was completely different, she had done a fantastic job and put together some really good set of images and videos. However, when it came to the turn of pluto it was shown as one of the planets. So, I asked her if she knew that it had been changed to the status of a dwarf planet to which she said, “yes”. Then, the conversation veered to why the change in status happened. One of the teachers vaguely remembered that scientists had found other such planetesimals but apart from that they had no idea what had happened. We refered her to search the answer using internet and get it from Wikipedia. She had the resource at hand when she was making the playlist but the fact that it didn’t occur to her that she could have upgraded her knowledge using information from the internet shows the lack of the reach of technology (in this particular school’s case, it is the case of too near, yet too far) and also lack of curiosity to figure things out.

3. This one is a little embarrassing to say the least. We were showing the teachers how audio/visual concepts can be applied to teaching grammar and how they can make effective lessons using internet as a source for getting the audio/visuals and then putting it together. So, as the sample lesson we chose to show a playlist on “sentences and the types”. It came to “interrogative” sentence and we asked them if the 6W’s were a must for an interrogative sentence – pat came the answer – no! Then, we asked them if 6W’s always indicated an interrogative sentence. Now, partial silence, then someone said we can make an exclamatory sentence with them. Then, I asked how about declarative/assertive sentence using 6W’s? Stunned silence. I had to give an example before they came out of the shock.

4. Another teacher was teaching “safety rules” to kindergarten children. She put together something really nice but I didn’t know how to respond towards the end of the following conversation. Most of her images were about what not to do, so I suggested why not tell them something they can do to keep themselves safe – “so how about the action of wearing rubber slippers before they touch electric connections in a wet bathroom or place?” I asked. Pat came the anwer, “no, they will try to do a lot of things by wearing rubber slippers we can’t take that chance”. I’m not sure if children will/will not do something naughty if they get this information but not giving it to them is even more dangerous in my mind, they have no tangible take away from the class on being self-reliant but instead a lot of fear has been induced in them about every sharp object around them, every electrical point around them and so on. Do we want a bunch of scared children?

It quite clearly shows that they are not thinking about the teaching process on a day-to-day basis. They don’t question the way a text has been structured, they don’t question the way notes are being delivered and they don’t entertain questions in their head about the efficacy of their own delivery in the classroom. Will it break the bubble? I’m sure. But, will the prick be sustainable? Can they survive in this “informationally” flat world? What do you think?

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