Last evening, I had an interesting conversation with a senior teacher who recently retired after having taught for 21 years in the same grade at the same school in Southern India! I was of course curious and asked her what motivated her to never request for a change of grade! She smiled and simply said, “Fatima, we belong to different generations. I so want to do what you do but I can’t be a risk taker, and perhaps your generation with the capacity for change could learn a lesson or two from us!”

Lesson out there somewhere for all of us? Perhaps.

For me, personally, connecting with those with experience has been the highlight of my journey in the education space – history matters, facts matter but what you do with it is your individual contribution and I wanted to get the aforementioned senior teacher’s perspective on what we can do to make sure the young, vulnerable minds that become a part of an educational system are ‘safe-guarded’ against the rigours and demands of a competitive world – yes, I am fiercely protective of this generation who simply have too much to process! As a young entrepreneur, leading a team of seasoned professionals passionate about ‘skilling’ teachers, it helps to get different perspectives. We have concluded with our presence in 30 cities and working with over 50 schools that while the conferences throw up fancy names and new theories – the fundamentals haven’t changed!

So what are these fundamentals?

Our job as teachers was always to nurture, to mould and provide for every child in the classroom to emerge. We were always meant to inspire, to shield the children at times, to expose them and make sure they understand what they were learning. It is in our country where inquiry based curriculum in the form of gurukul system emerged. We promised to care, individualise and customise and work with every child, remember?

These fundamentals, therefore, don’t change irrespective of the academic board a school follows. These are those non-negotiable standards that you follow as a role model simply because you made a choice to become a teacher!

So it baffles me when in conferences we throw up new jargon and start discussing it as a profound discovery. We seem to each year attach ourselves to new words – packaged ’attractively’ – yet speak about things that were always non-negotiable. Social and emotional competence is now packaged as mindfulness in education. Should it not be the primary responsibility, as an educator, to make sure every child is safe and secure and feels protected and confident? What about nurturing them as all-rounders and focusing on their personality? What about letting each child discover his/her own potential? For we all got there, didn’t we? We should not be discussing it, but implementing and allowing children to be! It is a dis-service if we can’t do more and don’t give all we can to those young children for whom, we are their world. It is a pity if we define their journey as students by the marks or grades they get, and only strive for academic excellence.

I remember reading this beautiful quote by Jane Nelson that Madhavi Shilpi another senior educator used when leading a parental workshop for KA EduAssociates last year, “Whatever gave you this crazy idea that to motivate children to do better, you first have to make them feel worse!”

It is as simple as that!

There is nothing like too much love when you become a teacher, there is no ego when a child corrects you, there is no harm in admitting that not all your students will like you in your class because at times you have to be firm. It is also okay to not have all the answers, because you cannot know everything – simple fact of life – no one does!

And yet, I rest my point: This is what we started out to do in the first place and promised to do when we joined the education space.

So to all those starting their careers as young teachers, beware of ‘routines’ and stay clear of the temptation to just get through a lesson plan and log your work done. Don’t only be happy with those who achieve in the class, and do not send those that need a bit more attention to a specialist. Make these an opportunity to become a more evolved teacher. Care about researching better ways to teach and remain open to feedback …motivate to bring out true potential!

You have a choice and an incredible power to shape many lives…just do not make it ordinary for them and stay true to those fundamentals!

And yes, cope with the jargon …

An Award winning educationalist (K-12), on the Advisory Board of several schools & edutech companies, she’s a veteran of 3 educational start ups and the Founder of ACE. Pioneering change-maker, she’s passionate about revolutionalising education. |