Educating India- Listening to Innovative Teachers-76th Rajagiri Round Table
India has a great tradition of attaching value to education, moulding young minds. We also have a culture of honouring our teachers and they have always been held in high respect. India has achieved rapid economic growth and development not just because of the investments in science and technology but more fundamentally in educating its masses. Every year, September 5 is celebrated as Teachers Day to honour the gurus who shape the destiny of the nation by imparting knowledge, values and wisdom to the younger generation.
This year the nation has honoured 44 teachers on 5th September, 2021 from various states who brought in new methodologies, innovation and creativity into their teaching processes most often with frugal resources.
Rajagiri Media has dedicated the Platinum event to all award winning and innovative teachers, leadership at the school and colleges. More than half a dozen innovative teachers from diverse streams across the country shared their innovative stories and ideas at the 75th Rajagiri Round Table Conference on Educating India: Listening to Innovative Teachers held on Wednesday, 15th of September 2021 on Zoom.
“I think therefore I am.” Quoting Rene Descartes, renowned mathematician and philosopher, Dr Sarvesh Naidu, Executive Vice President of TRINS Institutions, Kerala in his opening remarks said that teachers have to keep thinking constantly so they don't turn into a machine. "Every day is different, every moment is different and no two classes or students are the same. When you keep thinking about that you become what you desire to be as a teacher." On the other hand, a teacher who works like a machine fails to recognise the students in front of them and take them for granted, he added.
The growth in Information Communication Technology (ICT) and the disruptions during pandemic helped bring out the innovative mindset of teachers and school leadership to the forefront. Prof Dr Achuthsankar S Nair, Head of Computational Biology at University of Kerala said that over the years, teacher has become a performer on stage and he needs all the paraphernalia of the media. “Teachers are becoming like film directors, they have to decide what scene has to be shown first and what scene has to be cut into while teaching and add a bit of background music too. Teaching is becoming a total performance rather than a ritual lecturing. They need to tune their personality to be a performer rather than a mere person who just transmits information through a lecture.”
And indeed the ‘performers’ of the classroom drawn from such disciplines as mathematics, physics, biology, art, computer science, social sciences had one thing in common. They were ready to forego the tight boundaries of compartmentalized learning and go beyond the classroom to make their learning effective and engaging for students.
Mathematics is Everywhere
To make children love mathematics and to make it interesting we must first understand what children need, according to Achala Verma, Mathematics Teacher, Dean Academics at Birla Balika Vidyapeeth, Pilani, Rajasthan and winner of National Teachers Award 2021. "They like to play in the ground, they like to do things with the hands, body movements, go around and therefore I thought of all the contents in the book that can be made into a real life situation and let them come up with solutions," she said. She took the children to the ground, take the height of the tree and do markings on the sports track. "I helped them with the calculations, simple concepts of area, measurement, use of Pythagoras theorem in the marking of the ground and they began to enjoy mathematics." Once they start liking mathematics, the difficult level reduces for the students, she added.
Cartooning in Biology
Doodles, cartoons, comics, caricatures are some of the tools that can make learning fruitful and infuse joy in the teaching- learning process, according to Santosh Kumar Bisen, Biology Teacher at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Kabirdham, Chattisgarh, Fulbright DAI Scholar –USA and winner of 10 national awards for teaching. He has been teaching science and biology for 32 years and he has explored the role of cartooning in diminishing the monotony in the classroom. Cartooning and caricatures has also helped him in designing better assessment and question papers, he added. "Even in a power point presentation, we can remove the text with visual language such as cartoons, doodles, comics, learning, behavioural outcomes will be better."
Modern day applications try to unify the sciences as breaking science into silos or compartments fail to give the larger picture of how sciences complement each other, according to Dr Pius Augustine, Asst Professor of Physics at Sacred Heart College, Ernakulam. Students should see the possibilities and teachers should open the doors to opportunities that students never thought existed. “Teachers should give enthusiasm-motivate students to find information from their observations and encourage them to find as many applications from the information garnered. Let students find problems and find their own solutions. These will hone the skills and come up with large scale solutions to global problems,” Dr Pius said.
Art integration in education is important because both the left and right brain in a student has to be equally developed, according to VS Sajikumar, Art Teacher in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalalaya, Alapuzha winner of National ICT and National Teachers Awards. The left brain is associated with the numerical, reasoning, logic and memory while the right brain is associated with aesthetics, awareness, feeling art and creativity. “Traditional classroom was mostly focused on developing the right part of the brain not the left. Music, art or dance could be learnt at home was the general feeling,” Saji Kumar said. Several eminent scholars, scientists had an affinity with art. For eg. former President APJ Abdul Kalam was a veena player while Albert Einstein was an amateur musician which helped him in developing theories in Physics. Art is an umbrella form for painting, sculpture, poetry, music, photography, dance etc. "Once students are able to understand the wider meaning of art they can integrate it into all subjects in a holistic manner. Art integrated education helps in the development of communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity in students"
Intelligence and Character
Mathew K Thomas, Social Sciences teacher at Sainik School, Trivandrum and National Teachers Award Winner, 2021 is of the view that intelligence and character will make a child a better person. "It is not academics alone that matters. What they learn from the ground, life skills, physical, mental and emotional fitness determines the success of a child," he said. “The armed forces need people who are physically and mentally strong and I am pledged to fulfill the mission of Sainik schools through well-designed academic and non-academic activities. Every year hundreds of cadets trained at Sainik schools get admission to National Defence Academy and go on to purse life long careers in defence services, he added.
In this pandemic we came across instances when people were reluctant and resilient towards technology, according to Ms Krupali Sanghvi, ICT Educator, Udgam School for Children, Ahmedabad and National ICT Awardee 2017,IT Guru Awardee 2020. “Parents had concerns whether students were using technology in a non-constructive manner or destructive manner or more focussed on gaming. So as an ICT educator, my concern was to ensure that students were involved in socio-emotional learning.” Arham Talsania, a class II student used Minecraft in Education to teach empathy and values through gamification. #Ease4Peace, # Buddies2Ease activities were undertaken to spread empathy and values in children, she added. Parents have concern over social media use by children but it can be used constructively by them. Twitter was used to reach out to over 4000 educators across the globe to spread the message of empathy and values, Krupali said.
Importance of inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary learning were stressed by the panelists. Achala Verma pointed out that when mathematics is applied to other subjects and real life situations such as consumer inflation, kitchen recipes, budgets and probability, it becomes interesting. “If mathematical foundation is strong all other subjects will be easy and child will be able to relate it, analyse and apply it better,” she said. Mathematics can be integrated with any other subject. “When I used the inter-disciplinary approach, children learned to research on the internet and they became independent learners as elucidated in New Education Policy 2020.”
#Teachers will be remembered for the activities they did outside with students that reinforces the learning inside the classroom.
#Teachers should be performers of the classroom where they need to integrate technology and other elements.
#Teachers should nurture the academic, mental and emotional quotient in children.
#Art integrated education helps in developing the 4 C’s- Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity and Communication.
#Use of more visual elements such as doodles, caricatures or cartoons can improve learning and behavioural outcomes.
#Teacher is not a sage on the stage. He or she must be friendly, democratic and consider students as equal.
#Breaking science into compartments fails to give a larger picture of how they complement each other.