Teachers, change thyself

Published On: May 5, 2019 01:00 AM NPT By: Durga Gautam

Times have changed, yet many teachers don’t think it necessary to change their ways of teaching

The entire philosophy of teaching has undergone a sea change. It is no more confined to content delivery. A lot more aspects such as role playing, motivating, value instillation and many others are attached to it. The concept of a teacher as authority is gradually failing. Modern education has embraced liberalism in learning. Most of the modern-day teachers have made themselves compatible to these changed contexts but not all. There are some teachers who still stick to the same age-old practice of mechanical teaching.

Earlier, especially before the revolution in information technology, teachers were the only source of knowledge. They were believed to know everything with absolute finality. No one dared to doubt, let alone question, the authenticity of what they knew or said they knew. What they said was the only truth. They were the ones to decide what is right and what is wrong. With no other resources available, there were no ways to verify teachers’ knowledge. 

Teachers back then exercised an absolute authority over students not only in classrooms but also outside. Students could not speak during the class. In some cases, they could not even smile. They had to listen to the teacher without even moving their heads. Teaching was entirely a one-way process, based on a top-down approach. Interactions were rare. Even questions were not entertained. Inability to understand any subject was considered their fault. Teachers had nothing to do with it. The fear of teachers worked outside the classrooms as well. Just a glimpse of the teacher was enough to send even the naughtiest child back home from the playground.

Times have changed

This is not the case today. Things have changed and yet many teachers don’t think it necessary to change their ways of teaching. They are still into the same outdated mechanical way of teaching. 

There are a number of reasons that can be attributed to this status quo attitude. First, teachers think they know everything. They possess all the knowledge of the subject they teach. Some even go as far as to claim that whatever exists in their mind is all that is there to be known. Anything that does not go with what exists in their mind is far from being the truth. They hold that students know nothing, that students come to the classroom with empty minds and the teachers fill them with knowledge. Second, most of these teachers resist change. They work on the limited information available with them. They never question the validity of their own viewpoints. This rigidity blocks their mind and makes them unable to feel the urge to change. From the teaching methodology they adopt to the way they deal with students, they follow ways that have long been obsolete. 

Third, they are authoritarian, and hardly entertain friendly interactions with students. They think being friendly with students makes it more difficult for them to maintain a distance with them. So, they are often harsh with students. Some even use derogatory terms to address them. For some minor human errors from their students, they resort to scolding or corporal punishments.  Sometimes, they harass and humiliate students with unkind and unfriendly remarks. They hold it that students must fear them. This way, they think, they can make students respect them. 

Next, teachers who rely on traditional philosophy emphasize more on theoretical learning. Their teaching does not transcend the boundary of textbooks. They want their students to mug up everything that the textbook contains and produce the exact copy of it during their exams. They don’t bother to test whether their students can relate their learning to real life situations or not. They judge and evaluate students in terms of how much of the content they know. What if a student does not know all the mathematical formulae? He may be a good practitioner of applied mathematics.  What if your student has failed to solve a couple of numerical problems of Physics? He may possess excellent IT skills. He may have been involved in more philanthropic works than you are. What if your student fails to tell you who a particular story is written by? He may be a voracious reader and a creative writer. And above all, he may be a very good human being. Teachers with traditional mindset don’t ever like to acknowledge and appreciate these qualities. For them, these extra skills, other than the textbook knowledge, don’t count.

Teachers on trial 

In an age when students are equipped with all kinds of resources, the philosophy of education has gained a new definition, and so has pedagogy. Education now is more of holistic development than bookish knowledge and theoretical learning.  Teaching is more a friendly sharing than authoritarian imposition. If we still assume our roles as authority and refuse to change, we are sure to become irrelevant. Moreover, as teachers, we are exposed to a new generation of students every year. With a fresh batch of students, every year, we are on a trial. The same techniques that worked well this year may not be working right next year. 

Therefore, rather than being rigid in making ourselves teaching machines, we can be wiser in our ways to embrace changes and be good facilitators. There is nothing wrong in being flexible and talking to our students the way we talk to our friends and family. A little softness on our part will definitely result into much better respect from them. In fact, respect is a give-and-take process. If you want to earn it, you must learn to reciprocate it. 


The author is a lecturer of English language and literature

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