Stereotyping teaching

Once school is over, some of us do find time to indulge in our hobbies.

The cliché that a teacher is a learner too is one which can raise eyebrows and trigger smiles at the same time. I personally never saw a contradiction. But the truth is that being a teacher in India, even in the so-called reputed “international schools” mushrooming everywhere, entails the responsibility of “finishing the syllabus”.

So as a fraternity, this unrecognised group of professionals, is caught between the “devil” and the  “deep sea”-the “devil” being  “finish the syllabus” and the” deep sea” being the adventurous journey the teacher makes with one’s students to discover the subject, not as a superior but as an equal.  I solve this problem, and I think I speak for the vast majority of school teachers all over India, by starting with the “deep sea” at the start of the academic year and ending with “devil” by the time the year ends!

But teachers also have, mercifully, another way to reduce stress. Once school is over, some of us do find time to indulge in our hobbies. My own pet hobby was watching birds but that was not compatible with being at school early in the morning. Besides, I still needed something new to be disconnected from my own subject. And so it was that I became, in course of time a linguist “of sorts”.

I discovered I had a penchant for languages and discovered a whole new world in the sea of languages which flood humanity today. While I discovered two languages close to my heart, French and German, I also realised that our own country of nearly a billion people who speak  hundreds of languages and dialects, represents a linguistic cultural heritage which, sadly, in schools all over India has taken not even second place, in the race to improve our knowledge of science and technology.

How many of our school going students today would study an Indian language (let alone a foreign language) in depth and be willing to propagate it professionally? Maybe a handful. The three-language and five-language formulae adopted by our politicians do not seem to influence the new “mobile” generation which changes you to “u” and night to “nite” and which sees language as a mere vehicle of communication and not as rich cultural heritage.

But this short sighted stereotyping does not stop with our netas. At the portals of our own teaching profession, the schools, administrators turn a blind eye to teacher talent in spheres beyond the teacher’s specialisation.

I know a physics teacher who is an amazing Hindustani classical singer, a biology teacher who is extremely proficient in Kanada. Stereotyping teachers curtails the growth of teachers and society.

After years of teaching, I realise that teachers are not respected by their students for their knowledge and expertise in a subject. But believe it or not, they are loved for their passion!

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