A New Era of Instructional Design
Are you adept in using Information Communication Technology (ICT)? Are you a performer, with directorial skills? Are you hardworking, innovative, skilled in pedagogy, humorist and energetic…? Then this job is for you.
Does this job profile look strange or unbelievable? This is the description of the teacher in the post-Covid education system rapidly moving towards a blended learning environment where he or she is no longer a sage of the stage but a friendly, guide and mentor by the side of children.
“When we were students we not only obeyed teachers while in school but throughout our lives. Even today, I don’t stand before my teachers head erect but in bowed position and hands folded despite the fact that I have grown big in IT industry. Children now are fearless, they are focussed with greater exposure to what is happening around us,” according to PB Kotur, GM and Head of Global Freshers Engagements Programme at Wipro Ltd. The changing mindset of students and rapid growth and transformation in ICT poses a major challenge for instructional leaders of today. And it is also a reflection of dynamic changes taking place in society.
Guide by the Side
Earlier, a child was part of a larger family of up to 10 children with an elder who may be a parent or a grandparent whose word was authority. Now families have become nuclear or even nano with only one child where parents treat them as friends. A democratic environment prevails in the household. “And when they come to school they find teachers to be authoritarian. It doesn’t work in the present system,” according to Prof Dr Achuthsankar S Nair, Head of Computational Biology, University of Kerala. Interestingly, the word ‘Upanishad’ means guide by the side. Similarly the tutorial system of England evolved with teacher at one end of the bench and student at the other end. “The role model of the Upanishad and the English tutorial system is more appropriate for the current times where the teacher should treat the student as equal,” Dr Achuthsankar S Nair added.
In earlier times, a child asking a question to parent was considered talking back or asking a convictional question to a teacher gave a feeling that they were being offended. “Today’s children have a greater exposure to the instruction that is typically delivered in the class. If you write something on the board, they will say what you will write next. If you tell an anecdote they will say from where you picked it up. Today both teachers and students have abundance of knowledge or information in their palm,” PB Kotur said.
Eric Sheninger, award winning Principal of New Jersey, USA, thought leader and author of Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms in a recent podcast has underscored the importance of trust, empathy and relationships. The teachers have to put themselves in the shoes of the learners. According to him the learners look for a sense of value, meaning and purpose in what is taught in the classroom.
“Relationships underpin everything. If there is no trust, there is no relationship and if there is no relationship, no learning occurs,” he said. The real challenge is to make children delve deep into the curriculum to develop competencies for now and the future. “How we build those relationships comes down to how we structure our lessons and how we really do two things. How we empower our kids to think in relevant and meaningful ways. It is hard to make kids think and apply their thinking if they don't have the greater sense of purpose. The best way to instill that is through relevance,” according to Eric Sheninger. According to PB Kotur, Relevancy Index is the most important over all other indexes in the classroom learning.
Stuck in Himalayas with Rahul Gandhi
A teacher took Rahul and friends for an adventurous trek under great security threat
It happened some time in 1982 when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister and entire Gandhi family was under great security threat as it was the peak of the Punjab crisis created by demand for Khalistan. Dr Sarvesh Naidu, a teacher of Doon School took Rahul Gandhi along with 15 other students of Grade VIII on a trek to the Himalayas even as the school management and security officials raised serious concerns over his safety. “I said he is a boy, he can join us and we can take good care of him.” However it was not a smooth climb and they failed to return on time causing a scare. “When we were stuck in the snow, our heart was sinking and God what will happen if we don't reach safely. The government would probably arrest me and put me behind bars.” Dr Sarvesh Naidu believes that Rahul Gandhi is not likely to forget this incident. Every teacher has to have interests outside his profession and share that passion with students. “For me it was theatre and mount climbing; incidentally that led to this memorable, adventurous Himalayan trek,” Dr Sarvesh Naidu said.
According to Santosh Kumar Bisen, Biology teacher at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Chattisgarh, teachers have to become the ‘pied pipers’ of the classroom but not in a negative sense as in the story of Pied Piper of Hamelin. Children should come bubbling to the class with excitement and for that visual language can keep the monotony and boredom away. “Even if the teacher is not able to draw cartoons, there are memes and doodles freely available for creative use,” he said. A Fulbright DAI Scholar-USA and winner of several national awards in teaching, SK Bisen points out how visual literacy can improve cognition, better engagement of learners and gives pleasure (relaxation and focus).
V S Sajikumar, Art Teacher at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Alapuzha, Kerala and winner of several national awards has shown how art integration in education leads to better learning outcomes and also colourful and happy campuses for all stakeholders-teachers, non-teaching staff, students, leadership and parents. "Life is beautiful whenever we are happy, when surroundings are colourful which provides the ambience for teachers to share their happiness with children."
To Sir with Love
One of the most celebrated and among the most adorable teachers in modern history is undoubtedly E R Braithwaite whose autobiographical story To Sir With Love was a best seller and also made into an award winning movie with the same name. Braithwaite transformed a down town school in London into one of the best schools. Under him hatred turned into love, teenage rebelliousness into self-respect, contempt into consideration for others. He wrestled with students, shamed them, enlightened them and loved them. It is the story of a man's integrity winning against all odds breaking the barriers of racial prejudice.
Leadership is not about position, power status power or influence. It does not require a title, it is all about a personality, according to PB Kotur. Teachers have that personality of creation, compassion, deepening relationships and global oneness. “In Indian academic system, when we refer to leaders we mean principals, directors, vice-chancellors, head of departments… However, any person who has certain qualities is a leader. And they are not born but created out of disruptions.”
Eric Sheninger has this message for instructional leaders. They should be disruptive thinkers. “If we are to make our kids to be successful, we need to develop their ability to think disruptively.”
Making of an Adorable Teacher
•Great Thinkers: They need to be disruptive thinkers. Question the conventional teaching practices and see if they are relevant. They cannot teach the way they were taught and lead the way they were lead.
•Don’t be Complacent: A teacher needs to get out of their complacency and comfort zones to bring about periodic changes in instructional design.
•Hardwork and Sincerity: A teacher has to be hardworking and sincere to bring out the best learning outcomes.
•Sense of Humour: Teachers should not only use humour creatively in the classroom but also laugh at themselves.
•Energetic: Teachers should not sit in the chair and stand behind the lecturn. Benches should be arranged in such a way that teachers can move quickly. Younger children love to be close to teachers.
•Empathy: To err is human and we have to be empathetic with students. And not rub them on the ground if they make mistakes.
Take Learning Outside Classroom: A teacher will be remembered for what he did outside the classroom than inside.
•Discipline: Don’t be a disciplinarian always. Be firm but adaptable. Discipline comes through smile, compassion or clapping of hands.
•Ethical Values: Ethical values play an important role in personality development. Ethics should be a mandatory part of the curriculum. You cannot make good engineers or scientists if they have not ethical practices nor good lawyers unless they are taught ethics.
(Excerpted from opening remarks by Dr Sarvesh Naidu, Executive Vice President, TRINS Institutions at the 75th Rajagiri Round Table Conference).