India is the second largest education system in the world with learners from diverse social and economical background. The Indian educational setting provides excellent opportunities for innovation, enhancement and grassroots level transformation, given that a large part of the learners come from rural areas. The role of a teacher is significant as it helps to retain students, shape the career and personality of students and enhance the reputation of the organization. A motivated teacher can go a long way in creating an inspired learner and hence teaching can be seen as a nation building process. In this issue, we present a few aspects that were discussed in the workshop that was organized for University teachers. .
On 4th August 2016, 36 faculty members from Avinashilingam Institute of Home Science and Women Studies attended the Joy of Teaching program at Anaadi Foundation. It was a great honor and privilege to host Padmashri Krishnakumar ji, Founder of Arya Vaidya Pharmacy Research Foundation and Chancellor of Avinashilingam University at the event. The program was a blend of lectures, self-reflection based activities, meditation and yogic practices. Topics of discussion ranged from the goals of education, rediscovering the joy of teaching, neuro-cognitive learning theories and the four dimensional aspects of the teaching and learning process.
Teaching: A Nation Building Process
The session started with a discussion on the significance of a teacher in the educational process and why teaching is a nation building process.
The book titled Beautiful Tree by Prof. Dharampal highlights shows how the indigenous system of education was very much accessible, available and accommodative of people from various walks of life. The book also gives insights on how the focus of education changed from a life oriented process to livelihood oriented after colonization. In the current times India is the second largest educational system in the world. While developed nations like Sweden and Finland have managed to offer education, India is yet to get there though a large section of the learners cannot afford basic education. Here are some interesting facts about the educational system:
There are about 8.6 lakhs schools that offer primary education (it was 6.4 lakhs in 2000)
Nearly 132 million children are enrolled in primary schools (it was 113 million in 2000)
60 Million children are in secondary/post-secondary schools
The higher education enrollment is about 29 million
8.3 Million teachers are part of the educational process in India
The Teacher-Pupil ratios are 28 in Primary, 30 in Upper Primary, 28 in Secondary and 40 in Senior Secondary as compared to 11–12 in Finland or Sweden
While this statistics definitely shows great signs of improvement, the gross enrolment ratio (ratio of number of individuals who are actually enrolled in schools by the number of children who are of the corresponding school enrolment age) remains low at 23.2. The government has identified that the lack of trained teachers and ineffective pedagogy to be the key factors that contribute to low enrollment rates. The quality of teachers in terms of their educational background, teaching skills, motivation and their overall understanding of the subject has a direct impact on the retention of children in school. The infrastructure could be good, the administrator could be an excellent person but if the teachers aren’t good, the motivation to come to class dips down. There have been studies that show that schools with more number of inexperienced teachers have higher dropout rates. We not only need more teachers but we need more motivated and committed teachers to transform the educational setting in the country. If we look at the bigger picture, motivated teachers are an inspiration to student, who in turn become better learners and attain good position in the society. Educating a child can bring a transformation to the social and economical status of a family and a good inspired teacher can bring about this transformation. Hence focusing on the teaching process contributes to nation building in a significant way.
What is Joy?
We have named this workshop, “Joy of Teaching” because we sincerely felt that with all its standardizations, norms and policies, teaching has come to be viewed as a mechanized process of bombarding learners with information. Teachers feel overwhelmed, exhausted, confused and frustrated just like anyone who goes to work. Joyful Teaching sounds like an oxymoron to many teachers who experience teaching as a dull, monotonous, repetitive process. The Joy factor seems to have been removed from teaching.
So what is Joy? Joy is a feeling that combines happiness, pleasure and elation. Joy is not an end goal but an emotion that we experience while doing or going through something that is close to our heart. Joy is a certain positive energy that flows through us when we are deeply involved with something. The Joy of Teaching is to do with that happiness we experience while playing the role of a teacher. When we are deeply involved with something, our favorite activity, what do we experience? Most people may not have the right words to express their experience because whenever we do something we like, the “I” temporarily disappears and we become one with the activity. Have you seen children in the playground? Though they are in full action, there is no stress, the are not tensed but they are just fully participating in the process. The Joy of Teaching is experienced when we fully participate in the teaching and learning process.
PERMA Model of Happiness
Martin Seligman is an american psychologist, educator and author. His PERMA model of happiness is quite well-known, practical and applicable in various settings. During the workshop, we discussed the PERMA model and how it is relevant to teachers.
Positive Emotion: Positive emotion is a certain good feeling. For many of us, positive emotions shape our worldview. The way we look at things changes with our state of mind. Hence positive emotions make us look at things around us in a positive manner.
Engagement: Let us see the next factor, which is one of the key factors in bringing about positive emotion- how involved we are with our life. It’s called engagement, or involvement- how much involvement we show.
Relationship: The third component of joyous experience is relationships that we share with others around us. When there is complete involvement, you will see that wonderful relationships grow. You will be able to contribute to each other’s positive emotions. It builds a strong team. Then there is a synergistic action. You will be supportive of each other. Then there will be joyful involvement, and through that, you will reap the phalam,fruit of your good labour.
Meaning: The fourth component is meaning. Why are we involved with our work? What is our aspiration? How much ever expansive our aspiration is, to that extent, the he work that we perform will be fruitful, and our anubhava also that enjoyable.
Achievement: In doing our work with complete involvement, with deep motivation and expansive vision, finally we have a sense of achievement. We feel that we have achieved something in life. Achievement is a very significant motivator. All these components form aspects of what we call as joy. It is not just the emotion or feeling. It is not just about feeling good. All of these matter. If you have all of this, you will see, your life is tremendously rich. Whoever comes near you, they will gain from you, bless you and leave. That is when you gain genuine appreciation, and hence, this understanding leads us to right action.
A Day in the Life of a Teacher
Many teachers expressed that a day in the life of a teacher is extremely complex. They have to juggle between their teaching schedule, administrative responsibilities, research and publication, committee work, student counselling and other co-curricular activities. At the end of the day, teachers feel stressed out and exhausted. We must understand that it is not just teaching but every job has become stressful. Wherever the objective and vision are narrow there we see dissatisfaction and a sense of unfulfillment. Through our experience we understood that one needs to stay with the system for a reasonable amount of time to be able to appreciate the processes and integrate them into one’s routine. Habits take time to form and we need to give our body and mind the necessary time to form those habits. Consciously practising them can help us cultivate them faster. That is where tools from the yogic sciences can be of immense benefit.
Consciously practicing them can help us cultivate them faster. That is where tools from the yogic sciences can be of immense benefit. During the workshop there were several moments of silent reflection and guided meditation where the participants had opportunity to introspect and internalize the principles discussed. Meditation is a process of turning inward and internalizing the focus using specific methodologies. We often spend most part of the day focusing on outward things and events. Dedicating a portion of the day for meditation turns our focus from the diverse outer activities to harmonizing and unifying inner principles.
Qualities of a Teacher
Throughout the workshop, the higher purpose of the teaching profession was emphasized. Participants agreed that it cannot be looked at as a profession or career but a life path as teachers impact thousands of lives. There are qualities that a teacher needs to posses in order to bring out fundamental transformation in education. Some qualities that we discussed in the workshop are:
Empathy more than sympathy: While sympathy helps to provide solace to students when they face issues, empathizing with them can help teachers empower their students
Andragogy not Pedagogy: The root word paed means child and hence modern researchers point out that pedagogy deals with learners as children. A better approach would be andragogy where learners are treated as mature adults and the teacher is a more of a facilitator
Availability and Lending Ears: Most students who face issues want ears that listen to their problems without judgment. They aren’t even looking for solutions. Hence when teachers are available to their students and lend patient ears, students experience great relief
Having a Vision: When teachers have a larger vision in life, their approach to students tremendously improves. They start focusing on what the student can be in the future more than what the student is currently. Hence even the student’s limitations are not looked at as obstacles to learning but as areas for improvement