Philosophy of teaching- Breaking the conventional barriers

In order to fit the changed context‚ today's teacher‚ therefore‚ has to be a multidimensional personality. Unlike in the past‚ only being academically sound does not attribute to being a good and successful teacher

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Durga Gautam

As a language teacher, I am sometimes at difficult times for I get blamed of being unable to handle my classes properly. Many colleagues of mine have to suffer the same fate. The regular interactions, discussions, and drilling, which are the part and parcel of every language class, are mistaken for unnecessary noise, and we are often advised by the administrative authority to control the class and not to disturb the neighboring classes. At times, even our efficiency is questioned. This largely results from the inability of people in the administrative authorities and even fellow teachers with traditional mind set to understand the true sprit of the changing dynamics of teaching.

Starting from the hermitages of Gurukul and arriving at the IT classes of highly advanced modern schools, the philosophy of teaching has gradually gained a new definition and appreciation over the centuries. With the advent of new theories and methodologies as the outcomes of years of pedagogical research and practices, there has been a paradigm shift in both the theoretical as well as practical aspects of teaching. Teaching, which was perceived solely as a teacher centered approach traditionally, is no longer accepted as a downward path of imparting knowledge these days. Instead, it is taken as facilitation, where a teacher is expected to act not as the storehouse of knowledge but as a guide and facilitator. Unlike a traditional teacher, who is every time hitting hard his head, a modern teacher encourages the learners to explore themselves so that they can identify the potentials that lie within them. Today, knowledge is not viewed as something which is imposed upon the learners from outside, but as something which is fished out. As a result, modern day teaching is more learner-centered and participatory. It is more interactive and practice based, and ensures the involvement of every individual learner so that the learners of all levels and capacities get a chance to expose themselves. Such practical approaches, on the one hand, have lessened the burden of teachers, thus making their task much easier whereas on the other hand, they have helped the learners open up and share their ideas with each other in groups more comfortably and confidently.

However, a large number of teachers, both young and elderly, still stick to the same age old patterns of teaching. They still view teaching as an act of funneling knowledge into the supposedly empty brains of learners. I have, at times, heard teachers say that teaching is not effective until they nullify the authenticity of hitherto existing knowledge among the learners. This is, however, an act of treating the learners merely as empty vessels. Similarly there are some others, who are highly authoritarian and view teaching as a one way traffic. Such teachers rely heavily on lecture methods. They tend to take the learners merely as learning objects, and rarely entertain interactions with them or any informal sessions, which are almost mandatory in the modern day classrooms. They expect their students to be ready with their books and exercise books turned at the right pages before they enter the classroom. And when they enter, they seem to start off right at the entrance, without even little concerns about the students’ well being, and whether or not they are ready to learn. This kind of approach, however, is very much unlikely to give the desired result these days, and even the highly competent teachers are likely to turn as failures. Good teaching in fact comprises a careful handling and effective execution of all the pre-teaching, while-teaching and post-teaching activities.

With a changed scenario of the phenomenon of teaching and learning, we live in a different academic era today. Because of people’s easy access into fast growing information technology, modern day classrooms are not merely the groups of passive listeners. Unlike those even a couple of decades ago, today’s learners are much smarter and better possessed. They are equipped with multiple resources, and don’t depend only on teachers for the acquisition of knowledge. The modern day learners are not merely the educational morons laden with complex theories, without even a little knowledge of their practical implications. They are rather concerned about the pragmatic aspect of knowledge they have gained through books or any other sources. They even question the validity of their knowledge until they have found it useful in their real life situations.

In order to fit to this changed context, today’s teacher, therefore, has to be a multidimensional personality. Unlike in the past, only being academically sound does not attribute to being a good and successful teacher today. Teaching has gone beyond the text books in terms of both form and content. Syllabus and the text books are viewed simply as the means but not the ends. So, only the teachers who can transcend this traditional boundary and teach their students the values of life are likely to get better appreciation. A modern teacher is, therefore, a teacher, friend, psychiatrist, actor, joker at times, and above all a good human being.

source: Gautam, Durga (2013),"Philosophy of teaching- Breaking the conventional barriers ", The Himalayan Times,6 Feb 2013

2013-02-06 | EducateNepal


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