Making the ordinary extraordinary

Making the ordinary extraordinary

This book is a tribute to government teachers — the heroes you don't hear about.

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Teachers

News about government schools is often in the negative. However, such assessments are quantitative rather than qualitative and ignore the fact that the teachers of these schools work with minimal infrastructure and in adverse circumstances. The heartening fact is, despite such difficulties, most of them strive hard to make effective changes in the quality of pedagogy and take steps to improve their own capabilities.

In this book, the author, S Giridhar, who is the Chief Operating Officer of Azim Premji University, has put together stories of these inspirational teachers. The stories are from Primary and Upper Primary schools in Uttarkashi and Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand, where the terrain and climate pose a challenge; Sirohi and Tonk in Rajasthan, where there is a tribal population and the teacher needs to know Marwari and Hindi and the tribal dialect to facilitate interaction with the students and Yadgir in Karnataka where the parents often migrate.

Since they have to travel long distances to reach the school, the teachers often shift to the villages where they are posted, living away from their families or bring their families over and enrol their children in these very schools.

More girls enrol in government schools than boys. This is because, the boys are either sent to private schools or are roped in to earn a livelihood. In order to increase enrolment, the teachers have to go door-to-door in the villages and win the parents’/communities’ confidence. These stories reveal how teachers pool their own resources to repair buildings, build toilets, buy stationery, build compound walls and devise playgrounds by levelling the land available — all within a modest budget. The library is often housed in the classroom itself.

Playing many roles

The teachers ensure that the mid-day meal is wholesome because that may be the only meal the children have in a day. In these schools, teachers have to deal with multi-level and multi-age classes. They devise their own methods of teaching, where one group of children are engaged by themselves while they attend to the other group. Teaching resources are created by the teachers themselves, depending on the need of a child. The teacher devises special materials for children with learning difficulties and stays back after school hours to teach them.

The assessment is ongoing, because in most of the schools the teacher keeps track of every child by maintaining a daily diary. Professional capacity-building is enhanced by attending training programmes and acquiring additional qualifications through correspondence courses. The language used in the book is simple and easy to understand. However, some Hindi quotes have not been translated. Illustrations by Adwait Pawar are artistic and appropriate.

In this book, the author has clearly shown how teachers in government schools go beyond their call of duty to make classroom learning effective. Urban teachers can draw a lesson or two about how to teach multi-level and multi-grade classes and how to improvise teaching resources. Ultimately, the book underlines a teacher’s basic ethos that “every child can learn”.