×
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Teamwork: the pull of a superordinate goal

Last Updated : 15 July 2020, 20:07 IST
Last Updated : 15 July 2020, 20:07 IST

Follow Us :

Comments

In the public education system, very often, an entire lifetime of service as a government schoolteacher can go unnoticed and unrewarded. And yet, it is within this environment that we also have teachers who respond to an inner calling to do their best for children from disadvantaged backgrounds who come to their schools. Often, these teachers are lone rangers in their schools, which also means that the fortunes of a school are completely dependent on them. Only when a group of fine teachers come together will a school have a more secure future. Therefore, I had reason to be doubly pleased whenever I observed that there were some schools that were doing well not because of one individual but a cohesive team of teachers.

The remarkable thing that I noticed about this collective ownership of a school among such teams was not merely the fact that they set themselves high goals or that they all worked equally hard but that they seemed comfortable with the knowledge that they had varying abilities. Five teachers across disciplines as varied as English, science, social sciences, maths and first language with different levels of experience, qualifications and pedagogic abilities seemed united by the same level of commitment. This is a valuable lesson for any team in any profession.

Writing about this for the journal of the National Human Resource Development (a pre-eminent body of HR professionals in India), I had called it a version of the much researched and discussed, ‘Pygmalion effect’. I argued that something has made these teachers reset the bar for what they expect from themselves and having set it high, they do everything to meet these demanding standards of performance. The Pygmalion effect kicks in from all sides. At some of the Model Schools, the motivation for excellence came from the fact that the teachers have been selected to the position from a large pool of aspirants. For some, it was the realisation that they have been provided an opportunity to teach children from very disadvantaged backgrounds and the children’s future depends solely on their efforts. For others, it was a moral compulsion that one of the teachers articulated thus, ‘My school is better resourced, both in terms of infrastructure and with teachers, than many other schools. It is my duty, therefore, to provide children with the best possible education.’ So, it isn’t surprising that what we heard most often from these teams was, ‘Kuch karke dikhana hai’ (I want to achieve something).

Actions finally decide everything. At some of these schools, within a remarkably short time, at others, after a longer haul, the teachers have implemented a number of simultaneous actions. Unfailingly, these involve extra hours before and after school; coming to school on Sundays and holidays; going door-to-door to meet parents; putting in their personal money to create materials or facilities; and, building their own subject knowledge. It also means painstakingly prepared child-wise portfolios to track each child’s progress. It means identifying children who need extra attention and investing time in supporting them. It means carving out a separate schedule for talented children to train them for admissions to Navodaya schools, the Maths Wizard and various other competitions. The teachers seemed to be filled with purpose and energy, possessed by the ambition to make their school the best in the region. They could not wait to come to school; they did not care if it was well past the time to leave. So, when in the deep interior regions, like Kudalagi or Veerpur Kuraha, we heard teachers say, ‘Nothing is a burden for us, we have a shared goal,’ it did not sound unreal.

In at least a couple of these schools, the headteacher was, for all practical purposes non-existent, a virtual figurehead; either a person of low energy or poor health. But the rest of the teachers carried the school on their shoulders with no resentment. And invariably, from among this team of teachers with varying abilities, there emerged, a de-facto leader, the one with ideas and conviction who the others willingly followed and supported.

Here, I must also share an interesting observation of teamwork. In many of these schools, when we asked teachers to tell us about themselves, their colleagues jumped in to provide details, taking pride in each other’s accomplishments. At one of these schools, the science teacher was preparing her children for the Rashtriya Bal Vigyan Congress. She was good in her subject but new to the job and with little experience in the government school environment. So, helping her was a seasoned colleague, the Hindi teacher who had been at government schools for over twenty years. He shared everything he knew, telling her how in his previous school the science teacher had prepared the children for this competition. The grateful young science teacher, when she spoke to us, remarked that science learning in the school owed much to the Hindi teacher. I stole a quick teamwork ‘ordinary people, extraordinary teachers’ glance at the Hindi teacher and saw him flush purple in the wintry sunshine of Uttarkashi.

In many ways, this section perhaps pulls together the best attributes described in the other sections and presents stories in which these attributes are present as a collective force. These stories about teamwork among teachers are from schools with varied backgrounds — of well-equipped Model Schools as well as schools that had nearly been ruined by local politics.

The teams I feature in this section, do not need supervision or exhortation from outside or above. Indefinably, their expectations have got recalibrated and they are not ready to settle for anything less than the best from themselves. In the process, they re-equip themselves, learn new things, become better professionally and renew their resolve. In normal professional spaces, people rise above themselves only when someone explicitly states such an expectation or for some reward or recognition. Here, in these government schools, as one of the teachers told us, ‘Neither are we doing it because we are told, nor with any expectation of a reward in return.’ The bugle is from within. No one else can see or hear it. It is for this reason that these teams are remarkable.

(Excerpted from Ordinary People, Extraordinary Teachers by S Giridhar, COO, Azim Premji University)

ADVERTISEMENT
Published 15 July 2020, 17:01 IST

Follow us on :

Follow Us

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT