My Teaching Philosophy
Education is the right of every child but when we try to establish commonness and conformity in it, that’s where the problem begins. The school system acts like a mould – trying to shape each child uniformly without caring about their inherent nature, likes and dislikes, aspirations, etc. What is commonly known as education in India is simply rote learning of facts and formulae that are regurgitated at the time of examinations and forgotten thereafter. Schools try and create a bunch of technical specialists who can earn a decent livelihood and thus have a secure economic position. Conventional examinations try to test how well a child is capable of memorization and unnecessarily puts the child under undue pressure to perform. This in turn fosters a sense of competitiveness in the guise of “fear of failure” which later manifests into unemployment, instability, anxiety issues and social acceptance problems. In this present rat race, one has forgotten the most important person in all of this - the child. But this is far from the true meaning of education.
The term “Education” is derived from the Latin word “educere” which means “to lead out”. So, education should ideally be a means to discover one’s “Swadharma” and the teacher should be a facilitator and guide who helps the child to achieve that. It should be holistic - preparing one for life in totality. In Shri Aurobindo’s words – “The role of the teacher should be to suggest and not to impose.” This kind of self reliance and learning can only happen in an atmosphere of freedom and love.
So as a new educator stepping into this world of teaching, I would try and create a safe, open and inclusive environment in the classroom where the students can express themselves freely without the fear of being judged, labelled or mocked. Grades achieved in school has become the yardstick to measuring a student’s intelligence. When a kid is unable to perform well in class or get good marks, he/she is immediately labelled by teachers as a “dumb kid” or “not a bright student”. Even if the same kid is brilliant in music or sports, he starts self-doubting his abilities and his confidence takes a spiral descent. But all this can be overcome if a teacher is successful in building a strong foundation of mutual understanding, respect and trust. The teacher must be the first one to open the doors of good communication.
Education has to be a continuous process all throughout one’s life and to be a true educator the teacher must always have the quest of learning in him/her just as Rabindranath Tagore says: “A teacher can never truly teach unless he is learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame. A teacher who has come to the end of his subject, who has no living traffic with his knowledge but merely repeats his lessons to the students, can only load their minds, cannot quicken them”. I completely resonate with Tagore’s thoughts as majority of the teachers in our current education system teach their age old lesson plans year after year without improvising or trying new, creative methods. Also, old school teaching is similar to the process of giving sermons where the teacher delivers a lesson and the students receive it. There is very little interaction between the two. However many schools are making way to new systems of experiential education and are accepting teaching and learning as a mutual process of sharing of knowledge.
"Self-knowledge is education. In education there is neither the teacher nor the taught, there is only learning: the educator is learning, as the student is." - J. Krishnamurti
Today’s curriculum in most Indian schools is more of a binding on the teachers, that has to be completed within a certain time frame. It completely ignores the learning of the student. The focus is on covering all the topics before the examinations that the students need to take to pass the course. According to me, curriculum should ideally be a guide for the teachers and standardized examinations should not try and test a student’s memorization skills. There should be regular in-course assessments like formatives, peer reviews, paper presentations, project outcomes, etc. that provides a holistic picture of a student’s learning.
A teacher should always spend time to decide on a suitable assessment technique which assesses as well as teaches the students. I also think that giving feedback to the students is an essential part of any assessment process and unless it is done, the loop is not closed. Feedback should be in form of conversations and constructive criticism. It not only improves their learning but also improves their confidence, self awareness, enthusiasm and encourages them to think critically about their work.
I believe lesson plans should be designed in a manner that the child constructs his own knowledge, through his experiences and hence guides his own learning journey. Keeping in mind John Dewey’s belief that “Education is a social process”, I would try and incorporate social interactions and daily experiences which will help them in their future decision making. They need hands-on activities and experiences to critically think and make connections, find deeper meaning, purpose and truly learn the content. I will attempt to provide such opportunities for critical thinking to create motivated and independent learners through project based learning and inquiry based learning. In this 21st century, each contemporary kid thinks differently, performs differently and have different ideas around what engages them. And so, we educators should seek out ways to develop their unique skills and perspectives to engage them and hence personalize and differentiate their learning path by offering choices in their learning products and processes.
In IAAT, I have learnt that reflection is the key component that transforms experiences into experiential learning. Teachers often accuse kids to having forgotten material they have learnt before, but in reality they never really learnt it at all. Teachers cover it and the students remember it for a short period of time. Reflection is the key to move knowledge from short-term to long-term memory. Reformers like John Dewey have been talking about the importance of reflection in the process of learning since 1930s. To quote Dewey - “ We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” Although it is a time consuming process to teach kids about reflection, I would definitely want my students to learn how to reflect on their work and behavior and correct their own mistakes as reflection is an integral part of the learning process.
Neev Experiential Learning School - As a part of the curriculum work, we created a school of our own based on our teaching philosophy.