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Parnika Featured: Joy of Teaching

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:

  1. There are about 8.6 lakhs schools that offer pri­ma­ry edu­ca­tion (it was 6.4 lakhs in 2000)

  2. Near­ly 132 mil­lion chil­dren are enrolled in pri­ma­ry schools (it was 113 mil­lion in 2000)

  3. 60 Mil­lion chil­dren are in sec­ondary/­post-sec­ondary schools

  4. The high­er edu­ca­tion enroll­ment is about 29 mil­lion

  5. 8.3 Mil­lion teach­ers are part of the edu­ca­tion­al process in India

  6. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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:

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

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