Until recently, teaching was not something we understood the way it should be. We thought of the teachers as just another stakeholder in the process of education. But the COVID Lockdown and the subsequent flood of Online Teaching has brought the rationality back to teaching. Online teaching, the way we are ending up doing, looks like a cheap prescription followed obsessively.
The StayHomeChallenge would have been a different thing for the teachers if there was nothing to be asked from them. That seems okay when the employer wants them to try and keep students engaged with learning; the advisories and e-mailers to develop contents and also write some research papers for their own professional development is also digestible. But the way this madness has presided over everyone is making the whole exercise look like another marketed torture trick. The fatality rate is high in such experiments because the ones who are at the helm in most of the business houses are not aware of what really is needed. Ther are surrounded mostly by the ones who need to save their own basket of fruits. It is easy to fill the EduBusinessmen's ears with things like teachers are lazy and they do not deserve what do deserve.
Now the case is wide open to all of us through the expansion of the internet. Online Teaching-learning has entered deep into our lives now. It won't go away easily; in fact, it will never recede now. I have heard the universities and schools are going to be 'Future Ready' now. They will be shifting to the ONLINE Mode more often to cover a particular amount of academics. The tough thing will again be the skill sets of teachers. Interestingly, no one will talk of that, though everyone knows that all this depends on teachers and teaches alone. If they cannot do it, it will never happen. Teachers are in need of serious counsel about motives and motivation. They need to have things which are more than words. Why cannot we take them as the warriors who are daring the times and trying to instil HOPE that we shall be back with the primary thing of Civilised life -Education!
But the goodness of teaching does have a bad side. That is the absence of learning. We used to say that if you have doubts, you are wise. The strength comes from our imperfections. But teachers are not able to see eye-into-eye now. Self-reflection is lost; so are jobs and securities. We always needed this confidence on all the 'Civilisation' occupations. Teaching, Medicine and Defense are the three sides. We glamorised the Forces, ignored the Doctors and undermined the teachers. Now, when we do not see them motivated, the question does come: ARE WE TEACHING FOR LEARNING!
Learning is not a certified activity which can be recognised by some face-value or colour on the face. It is the comprehensive involvement of the mind and intellect of the individuals who engage in this reciprocal transfer of ideas and observations, analysis and questions. Teaching for Learning, not for jobs or exams or results is the main thing we need to adopt. The Principles of Teaching can be listed as:
- Correctness in Communication
- Inspiring the Learners
- Integrity and Collaborative Outlook
- Skills in Educational Technology
- Creativity & Innovative Outlook
The above stand as permanent hallmarks of a teacher to whom we can look for inspiration. But when we see that learning is the primary thing to accomplish through the process, we set another correction in motion. That starts happening beyond the classroom. The parents and society itself start feeling free from the cage of 'Match this Criteria' race. Teachers, I wish to restate can do all this in one go. They can set the ball rolling by deciphering between their own efforts and those of the people who inspire them. If they feel, they are acting as 'models' for children, things will be moving to a corrective path.
How can they keep the students engaged in learning when our educational culture has never seen teaching as the source of learning. We have kept eyes open and the sight closed. We hired the teachers as nobody and we hired nobodies as teachers. Harsh, but the fact is the online teaching-learning trend has failed its own promoters. We did not train them enough to adapt to technology and to the refined ways of teaching and now, without even telling them how it works, we want the teachers to shift to something which is almost a new planet for them. Technology or even Teaching has not been associated with learning by the owners of the system. If this would have been Teaching for Learning, the involvement of teachers in 'other than teaching' jobs would have been minimum. Their self-enhancement, research competence and rapport with students would have been meaningful if their presence was acknowledged as the supreme presence.
Thomas Shuell placed the idea in clear perspective saying, student-centred teaching is built on the assumption that "what the student does is actually more important in determining what is learned than what the teacher does" (T.J. Shuell, "Cognitive Conceptions of Learning" (1986), 429 ).