There has been a spate of negative reports on teachers recently: stories of rape, assault, leaking of papers perpetrated by people who are supposed to watch over the growth of young minds. Society is therefore disenchanted with educational institutions and teachers, which has resulted in greater parental involvement in the schooling of a child. Parents have also begun to look at home schooling as an option. But it is unlikely to solve the problem as the reasons for these are varying.
Teachers are members of society and as such will reflect the malaise and confusion in it, perplexed by the tectonic changes taking place in the body politic. It is easy to play the blame game and ascribe the problems to managements, parents and pampered children, but real change can occur only through the transformation of teachers.
It is unfortunate that this profession does not always attract the best, the most conscientious, the most committed and the most motivated. One reason could be salaries which are not at par with other professions. There has been an improvement from earlier days, but not enough, especially in privately managed schools. This, however, is only one rung in the hierarchy of needs. Teachers too want recognition, appreciation and a sense of fulfilment. But their successes, their innovations, their achievements in mentoring children are rarely publicly acknowledged.
A major contributory factor is our method of selecting teachers. All schools need to have a good, structured selection process which is vital and indispensable. Besides the usual parameters of academic qualifications, communication skills, and competence in the subject, it is imperative that the incumbent teacher has the right psychological profile to fit into this profession. A panel of interviewers should include besides parents, subject experts, and a psychologist who can evaluate empathy, love for children, commitment and openness to diverse opinions.
At the time of the interview a short case study could be administered so that the panel gets an insight into the working of the teacher's mind, especially under stress. This process should be honed, streamlined and made suitable for individual schools depending on their philosophy and value systems. Yes, value systems are very important in any educational institution dealing with young people. It has to be the foundation woven into and intertwined with the ethos of the institution. The defined philosophy of the school, should be known to all stake holders and they should be continuously made aware of the same through meetings, seminars etc.
Continuous updating of teaching-learning strategies, pedagogical practices, and innovative methods of transacting content, sensitisation of gender issues and the awareness of children's problems like learning disability should be part of in-service training.
Teachers should be made aware of children's rights and managements should take immediate action if any transgression is reported. In-service training should be mandatory in all educational institutions and should be conducted as often as possible.
The quality of teachers will also improve if they have recourse to counsellors as the strains they are under due to family pressure, demanding parents, entitled students, often interferes with their effective functioning as educators. Periodic questionnaires should be administered in order to assess the emotional health of everyone from the Head downwards. There should be no stigma attached to this. The teachers are the scaffolding on which the educational edifice rests. There are many teachers who choose this profession because they want to and they will bloom given the right environment, sufficient encouragement, motivation and applauded for their work. The media too plays a vital role in this regard. They could give us more inspiring stories about teachers who have made a difference in a student's life and who have overcome the challenges that the profession throws their way.
It is not difficult to initiate change, but success lies in sustaining it. The teachers weave a complicated tapestry, but the right choices with the right skeins of colour can create a beautiful picture.
Let us bring back the 'Guru'- the dispeller of darkness, dispeller of ignorance, in the teacher.
(Maya Mohan is a former principal of a CBSE school in Kochi)...