“True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis
1. Make Learning Fun
Generally, people think that study and play are opposites, but we’re of a different mind. We combine the two, making text and context come alive in a way that a student’s imagination craves, and is naturally inclined to.
Teaching concepts by using various mediums of communication, exposure to how those concepts work in the outside world, and by hands on activity. At VIDYA, we also switch to teaching in their mother tongue if a certain student would learn better that way.
2. Be Non-Judgemental
Humans judge too quickly!
Willingly or unwillingly, we tend to create a bias and stand by it. When this enters the classroom, it has effects on every child. Luckily, our hearts are as strong as our minds. If we keep an open heart, we can counteract the effects of bias in our minds and others.
Pooja, one of our teachers, gives an example:
“In my very early days as a teacher, there was this one child I was sure was a slow learner. She was new to the centre and quite shy, which I concluded was a part of the same issue. Then, as time went on and she became more comfortable to the class she started speaking and, in fact, giving excellent answers. It was clear my initial assumption was wrong, she was not a slow learner in any way. I saw this repeatedly over time with different students, and realized it is easy to create premature assumptions as a teacher. I now guard against it.
Sometimes, a child needs to be helped directly to become more comfortable. Sometimes, it is our duty as teachers to make sure they’re left alone, and given space and time!”
3. The Teacher is a Constant Student
As the Japanese zen master Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Great teachers are also great students. They ignore negative assumptions of age and experience, and inhabit the same space of learning they create for their students, rather than being above and outside it.
Further, a good teacher is one who has built wisdom through their work. They aren’t limited to the textbook, they also teach and inspire students to learn life skills and deeper lessons.
Asmita, another one of our teachers, gives an example:
“I remember I used to write all my work in pencil as I was not confident about making mistakes. But then, one of my colleagues guided me against it, gently pushing me to accept that mistakes happen, even for teachers. I could have made the wrong choice and gotten offended, but I somehow reminded myself that learning comes in both big and small opportunities. And this small change– learning to write with a pen– eventually led to me becoming a more confident teacher, too. Never think that a thing is too small to learn, you never know what it will lead to!”
(Before) Noted written by pencil
(After) Notes written by Pen
4. Never Give Up
Children are loving, living bundles of pure joy and potential. They are unique, and a teacher’s job is to cherish that even when no one else does.
Dogmatism is never good for a classroom. A teacher must never marry a methodology. Children crave learning. So, if a child is not able to understand something, it is not because he/she doesn’t have capability– it is the teacher who has not yet not found the language in which the child can understand.
It is our job, and our joy, to use various ways to reach our students’ minds, and never give up!
An example from one of our classes:
“The student’s first response to the Pythagoras theorem is always either intuitive understanding or confusion. This makes it a tough topic to keep the whole class on the same level. But we have to accept that challenge, after all, it was our bacche themselves who picked the topic! Initially, all of of us, including the volunteers, enthusiastically got into the how, what, why of our final presentation.
Somewhere mid-way, we started doubting it. We wondered if we should choose some another topic. We didn’t think our kids were ready for this sudden jump in mathematics, we started scrambling for other topics in the last minute. After an hour of this, we realized we were underestimating our students, and also ourselves!
Working hard together, we took into account every possible doubt and roadblock, and created a wonderful presentation that the children loved and fully understood. “
5. The Classroom as an Ecosystem
A classroom is an ecosystem, and it is defined by the features of this ecosystem, rather than the four walls that are simply its physical bounds. It relies on factors which are beyond just the walls, the textbooks, the syllabus, and even the school itself.
A child entering a classroom brings with them, each day, not only pens, books and slates but also experiences: like a fight between their parents last night, a cute kitten they saw on the way there, a good breakfast or a hungry belly. They bring childhood traumas and happy memories. To boost the potential and health of this ecosystem, we must understand our students in their own words and on their own terms.
Example: At VIDYA, circle time is an open forum where the children can expresses their feelings without hesitation . When they enter the classroom, the question we ask for being late or being absent the previous day, is a simple: “are you fine?”
We spend the whole year building the right equation and interaction between the student and teacher that leads to Vyavhar and Vatavaran (roughly meaning, behaviour and environment). And that’s makes them want to keep coming back to school!
And of course, the different activities we engage in– like composing poems, sharing news, talking about football, national milk day– that makes things interesting.