A School’s only as good as its teachers

‘A teacher affect eternity. You can never say where their influence stops,’ – Henry Adams

Every child holds a promise, and every teacher must be a facilitator or enabler.

As schools prepare to reopen after the summer vacation, children might feel that the break was too short, with all their fun and frolic ending in a jiffy. This indicates children’s natural affinity for a friendly environment, a factor schools should note.

Children will grapple with mixed emotions as they return to school. Reluctant trips to school, new books, coping with new teachers, meeting fresh classmates, and the general rigmarole of a new year create uneasiness and uncertainty in young minds.

We must recognise all of these demands on children at the start of a new school year and understand their struggle to cope. Every school worth its salt must deliberate on how to make their school more student-friendly and effective. There is a growing concern about the falling standards of education. Every generation laments the falling standards and nostalgically recalls the higher standards of the past. This farce persists, but our focus should be on making our schools more effective.

How can we make our schools more relevant and effective? Magnificent buildings do not make a good school; good teachers do. The maxim, “A school is only as good as its teachers,” holds great value. Therefore, teachers are central to this challenge. How will teachers meet the demands of the new millennium? How can they motivate children facing numerous distractions? How can we equip our teachers with the necessary skills to meet the demands of the new generation of learners?

Teachers must develop a whole new set of pedagogic and managerial skills to be more effective. The present generation of students is better informed, more creative, and intelligent. Teachers need to match their creative longings and higher-order thinking.

The teacher is the most critical factor shaping the destinies of the present generation of children. Teachers must rise to the occasion. It’s a historic need. A few key areas require attention to enable teachers to function optimally in the future.

Good Communication: Undoubtedly, this is the foremost skill teachers should possess. Unfortunately, in reality, not all teachers are good communicators. Teachers who fall short in communication will not capture the children’s attention. A teacher’s engaging and stimulating presence, masterly knowledge of the subject, and relaxed teaching style can lead children to tremendous success. Even the most indifferent child’s attention will be riveted by a lively teacher.

A teacher can touch the lives of children through both words and actions. A conscientious teacher should, therefore, constantly strive to improve their communication skills. Rigorous and regular training programmes are essential for teachers. We also need to assess the outcomes of these programmes and determine their effectiveness. Training programmes must be fine-tuned regularly to make them impactful.

As is true of all professions, teachers too are of two types: the committed ones and the half-hearted ones. The latter need constant monitoring and prodding. Just as a woodcutter sharpens his axe at intervals, teachers need to continually update their teaching skills. Alongside teaching, they also need skills to deal with children facing emotional issues. Teachers with a counselling attitude are desperately needed. Mental health is the single most important requirement for teachers, often ignored due to the absence of objective assessment tools.

Empathy is central. Empathy solves all problems because it approaches them with understanding and compassion. Teacher empathy can work wonders in the lives of children. In other words, the emotional quotient (EQ) of teachers is supremely important. Teachers with good EQ can function more effectively even in the most trying of circumstances. Teachers should remember that children don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. A caring approach can heal wounds, rekindle the love of learning, and motivate even the most disinterested children.

Be firm if needed, but be kind-hearted. A teacher is a mentor, and s/he has to be firm when necessary but without being harsh or unreasonable. A fine blend of firmness and kindness makes a great teacher. Parents expect teachers to act with compassion and empathy. Teachers should respond to this expectation with grit and grace. Grit is about how determined they have to be, while grace is about how willingly they do it.

Thus, it’s all about a change in the teacher’s attitude, which can ensure a pleasant and productive school for our children.

Prof. Mathew C Ninan, Director of Little Rock, Brahmavar, Udupi
Published in the Deccan Herald dated May 28, 2024