Written by Jyothi S
Though most careers in the public sphere are service-oriented, some can be truly called community service. Teaching is one such profession. To begin with, though the salaries have been regularly hiked for teachers at all levels in the recent past, teaching is not just another salaried job. Additionally, teachers need to recognise that, professional parents of today, by and large, thrust the mentoring of their children on teachers. Increasingly, classrooms, more than homes, will shape future generations.
To start with it is essential to ask if a teacher’s role is relevant in the current times when excessive information is available at one’s fingertips? If so, what does “teaching” mean in the digital age?
There has been a paradigm shift in the role of a teacher from being the centre of information to a catalyst of transformation. It means what happens in a modern classroom is not one-way dissemination of information. Instead, it requires dissection of available information through in-depth discussion and analysis. Raw information is already available outside the classroom in digital and non-digital fora, social media. But the wheat has to be separated from the chaff, students have to be not only weaned away from fake news but also taught to understand what is fake news. That can happen only when classroom teaching takes on an interactional character.
According to German educator, Josef Albers, “A good teacher doesn’t provide answers, instead, enables students to raise the right questions”. In other words, the ultimate goal of education is to make students self-reliant through persistent critical thinking. Therefore, a teacher’s task is to provide not just information, but help students expand their cognitive boundaries by stimulating curiosity, imagination, awareness, creativity and questioning ability, thereby attaining knowledge. Accordingly, a good student is the one who has learnt to ask the right questions from the plethora of information at her disposal.
All this requires a teacher to not only have in-depth knowledge of her subject, but to be well-informed about other disciplines. Moreover, to connect several dots, her reading list needs to extend beyond textbooks. A good teacher spends a lot of time in self-learning. As the American educational reformer John Dewey puts it, “Education is a way of life, it is an endless process”. A classroom is a cognitive laboratory where a variety of information is distilled to create knowledge and wisdom. This means that along with the students, teachers earn something new in every class. This also means that teachers need to also share experiences with each other. Medical professionals often consult specialists in their field before surgery or taking on a difficult case. Consultations between teachers are however rare.
The digital age dictates that teaching should go beyond the curriculum. A teacher needs to be a constant learner. Sadly, we are in a system where marking attendance is mandatory, not the intellectual presence. Therefore, teachers need to introspect, why students are getting alienated from the learning process instead of looking forward to it.
The writer is Assistant professor of English, Tumkur University