Posts Tagged 'teacher quality'

Defining the “new age” teacher

I’ve personally worked with almost 500 teachers so far (in past 4 months) and given my previous article I got into a discussion with my friend on what in our opinion defined a “new age” teacher. You may, rightly, ask why the classification? Well, I could have as well used “good”, “excellent” and some other such term, I chose “new age” on purpose. One, it gave the discussion a purpose of looking for something “different” and secondly, it clarifies that we are looking for someone who is “contemporary”, irrespective of age.

Ok, coming back to the main point. What are the characteristics that define today’s teachers? In my mind the baseline is clear, she should be knowledgeable in her subject and she should have good communication skills. But, how does one go beyond? In today’s world, with its abundance of information, a teacher with a capability to upgrade her knowledge “just-in-time” instead of the traditional view of being a “know-all” is a cut above the rest. Another key quality is curiosity, more a child-like curiosity to devour information ensures that she facilitates better understanding and guidance for the child to navigate the complex world that they are faced with today.

A teacher who recognizes that today the skill set required to fit into the world has changed from hard work, obedience and intelligence to critical thinking, independent thought process and yet, being a team player will help mould the child accordingly through various activities and aids available in the classroom. Of course, the teachers need exposure to the corporate world or some way of upgrading their skill set to be able to acknowledge, accept and implement this change in their teaching methodology. What do you think? What defines a new age teacher?

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?

The forgotten “why” in education

I still vividly remember the lesson in class 6, “curiosity killed the cat”, that taught us a moral lesson not to be curious. I also remember thinking how it was relevant to me because a) I was not a cat and b) I learnt a lot of things by asking questions! (So much so that my general punishment in class used to be to go 5 minutes without asking a question!)

Why do I broach the topic today? The whole of last week has been hectic, we had back to back training sessions at two schools. We were training them on the usage of RazorBee (the device from Ariem Technologies, where I work) to create their own audio/visual content by using Internet resources (images, videos, text etc.). Now, over the period of time we have evolved a method by which we can get them to effectively search for concepts on the internet (and belive me it is quite a skill, and I still have to bail teachers on certain tricky topics, but most of them do fine now) but presentation using audio/visual aids is a totally different ball game.

When you present a topic, with or without an aid – it shows three things:

1. Your knowledge on the topic

2. Your thought process while you put together the lesson

3. Obviously, your skill to engage the audience

What happened during our presentation session, left me reeling. Not so much because of their skill, most of them were good, but because most of them were not engaged – neither with the content nor with their audience. In my mind, the engagement with the content and the audience happens only when you have a natural curiosity to find and figure things out and then explain it with equal amount of gusto, where you raise the curiosity in the minds of the children, get them to question their knowledge, rake their brains a bit and then wait with abated breath as you demystify the solution! I didn’t see even one example of this kind of classroom delivery in the 100 odd presentations we did in the past one week.

That brings me back to the topic of the forgotten “why”. Looks like our teachers have forgotten the joy of learning and the natural curiosity to understand things that made them teachers in the first place. ICT or no ICT, teachers matter, what they teach the kids imprints in them forever. Even if it were just another job today, isn’t it ones duty to oneself to do it well? Information abounds today, it is teachers who can set the students in the quest of knowledge. I wonder….what we are teaching our kids?


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