A parent of a class III student recently went rushing to meet her daughter’s class teacher to confront her about why the child had not ‘felt like coming to school’ over the past few days. The parent went on to say that it was because a particular teacher spoke ‘harshly’ to her daughter. “The parent said that until the previous academic year, her daughter never complained and came to school willingly,” said the teacher. In this context, how do you decide what is considered a ‘harsh’ word in a classroom? And, more importantly who really is listening to the teacher? Either everybody, or absolutely no one, many teachers say.
The teacher, who is the last mile between policy makers and students to ensure actualisation of everything from an ambitious teaching methodology to the child’s grasp of the alphabet, colours and concepts, is today negotiating not just rising expectations from parents and managements, but also a jumble of evaluation sheets, paper work and assessments. Though teachers say they find the profession rewarding, classroom dynamics, they observe have changed radically.
While for many government schools, teachers and managements, the challenge begins from bringing the child to school, and convincing parents about the importance of education, private school teachers complain about ‘overcrowded schools’, increasing instances of ‘hyper parenting’, and a loss of autonomy.
One of the fallouts of this may be waning levels of personal connections between the teacher and the pupil. To ensure that learning takes place in the class, teachers must be able to make eye contact with every student at least once during the class hour, and be familiar with the names of all the students, say experts. A professor who has been teaching B.Ed students for close to two decades, said that they brace their students for the challenges which lie ahead, because the profession is still caught in a bubble – it is considered a ‘safe’ profession with convenient working hours.
You may give children crayons and pencils, in a frenzy of colours, and give little fingers the freedom to spew strokes and shades in every form, but no art is defined without a boundary. Today, where everything boils down to evaluation, the best student is after all the one who makes the neatest drawing, and creatively uses colours, and the best teacher the one who ensures that it falls carefully within the line. A line that sometimes, even restricts teachers from what they can say in a classroom.