Not all Teachers Abscond

13 Jul

Most young teachers report disappointment with their experiences of teaching, especially in early education. That is worrisome


Time and again it has been proved that a great teacher makes all the difference to the future of the child. Lighting that spark, giving a child hope and confidence and then the content to fuel its growth — a good teacher does that all. Yes, it may be a simple classroom with a greying, cracking blackboard and the teacher may not be the most impressive looking person, but each classroom has the potential to create those moments. And that is the job of the teacher. Not just to teach the curriculum or help students pass examinations, though that is just partial proof of the real work that has been done in the classroom.

The teachers that influence us the most are our first teachers, often at nursery school. At the very beginning of the schooling cycle we are as wet as clay, settling into the terms of exchange we will have with others. Our attitudes, our trust in the world and our sense of boundaries are first set here. Teachers are taught how to deal with these in the classroom. Some chose the job because they are inspired to ignite that spark.

Sadly, that is not the norm — most teachers are unable to deliver in the classroom or do not actually do the job that they were appointed to do. For those teachers who have a ‘confirmed’ permanent job, there is no way of enforcing any quality standards, the least being present in the classroom. Others have been known to appear merely to sign the attendance register, while some deign to teach, often with terror. Teaching in most classrooms that are functional is seen as a transfer of knowledge, in the ancient tradition of shruti (listening) and smriti (memorising). Ancient traditions belonged to a different context, and formed part of a larger education system — our times require more sophisticated and caring methods of teaching.

For the vast majority of teachers who genuinely care for their craft, this is very upsetting. Not only does it tar them with the same brush, but also the consequent cynicism is extremely de-motivating. Most of them have been trained for three or five years and have a deep theoretical grounding in the best practices in teaching.

Yet most young teachers report disappointment with their experiences of teaching, especially in early education. In the intense competition for proof of achievement, they find themselves unable to practise what they have learnt. In preparatory classes, where they know the pace will be both uneven and slow, they are given academic targets that must be met. Teachers know that unless children develop motor skills, they will be unable to write well. More importantly, the little ones need laughter and play to be able to grow into confident, and yes even rapid young learners. One cannot rush learning in the early years. Pushing a set curriculum down unwilling young minds is unkind, to say the least.

Not only is this emphasis on academic content stressful for students, teachers also have a tough time trying to force feed when they would rather encourage. They work hard to create interesting exercises and teaching aids, for the little ones in their care. But with low wages in many private schools and large classes, they are harried and lose motivation.

They feel the pressure to finish the course regardless of circumstances or the abilities of the young children. On the other hand, if they do not finish the course, they are delivering non-standard education. Customised learning is theoretically seen as ideal, but it is a rare parent or head-teacher who is willing to take the long-term view and accept that their child is temporarily falling behind the set standards for a particular age group. Insecurities fed by their own past, or even comparison with social peer groups are transferred to the child.

Many schools have moved on from academic assessment of young children, measuring their success by their confidence and conversation. Yet many remain trapped in the middle-ages and seek to prove their worth in goals that may have no bearing on the child’s future. It would be wise for parents, teachers and schools to focus on the long-term benefits of early years of schooling, lest this area be over-regulated like the rest of the education sector.



Pioneer, June 12, 2012.

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