Smriti Jain writes why it is important to educate teachers in the changing education scenario.
“The status of the teacher reflects the socio-cultural ethos of a society; it is said that no people can rise above the level of its teachers.” The National Policy on Education, 1986
Can we truly empower our youth without empowering our teachers? Nations are built in classrooms. However, even after seventy plus years of independence, our classrooms are dominated by rote- learning and fear. Millions of children in our country experience the education system as disempowering, robbing them of their curiosity and they suffer silently in our institutions of learning.
Physically punished for asking questions, forced to prioritize rote memorization over analytical thought, overcome by crippling anxiety, their self-worth reduced to the results of exams. It is no accident that India has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world. One of the primary causes sited is failure in exams or the fear of that failure.
The struggles of our children reflect the struggles of our teachers. Our teachers are grossly unprepared to do anything different than what was done to them in their classrooms. Additionally, the prevalent model of teacher education bears a stark resemblance to the current model of schooling assembled around rote memory and examinations. When teachers do not experience any progressive pedagogy in their college classrooms how can they discover the vast potential of education?
Unsurprisingly, this type of teacher education yields the epidemic we see today of low teacher motivation, high absenteeism, and meaningless test-focused pedagogy. This perpetuates the destructive myth that teaching is easy, is a half-day’s job, and not a profession to take pride in. It is easy to put the blame on teachers. Our teachers are not failing. We as a system are failing our teachers. If we really want to re-imagine classrooms for our children, we must first re-imagine classrooms where our teachers are prepared. All research concludes that improving teacher quality is at the heart of improving student learning.
Teacher education is fundamentally about building more aware and empathetic human beings – people who understand themselves, can balance multiple perspectives, and relate deeply with others across traditional lines of difference.
Teachers first need to find their own voice before they can teach others to do the same. Teacher preparation programs should help them to connect with their self, their aspirations, and help them carve out their own identity as people and teachers. They must experience the purpose of education first hand and the profound effects it can have.
As children growing up in schools how many of us were provided the space to connect with ourselves and our purpose? As a nation obsessed with performance, grades and marks with little regard to deeper understanding, meaning, and nurturing human values; we are germinating violence in the classrooms.
For our classrooms to seed love, compassion and empathy instead of jealousy, comparison and one-upmanship; we need those torch bearers and change makers who can lead by example
Given the current ‘stick and carrot’ approach; nothing much is going to change. The system has created enough accountability measures without really looking at inspiring our teachers and nurturing them as human beings.
Smriti Jain, Co-Founder and Director, I Am A Teacher