Back to school

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Should this feeling of renewal be a prerogative of only children?

April and May are two months of the year when majority of people are on vacation, as most schools and colleges are closed.  It is the time for relaxing in exotic locations inside and outside the country or in a quiet retreat at their native place.  Parents make all efforts to spend as much as time as possible with their children trying to break away from their busy office or business schedules.  These two months pass off in a jiffy and makes one yearn for more of these!  Just when all are giving into the slowed down pace of life, June pops up without any wait.  The better part of this month is spent on buying uniforms, books, school bags, tiffin boxes, stationery and what not?  Excited with the renewed energy from their vacation children start thinking ahead about their new class, friends, teachers and the difficult subjects too.  Come June, it’s time for them to be back to school!

While purchasing the ‘essential commodities’, as I fondly call them, at a nearby stationery shop, I became unknowingly aware of many people like me in the shop, who were purchasing ‘these’ for their children to get back to school.  Out of curiosity I was looking for a familiar face and I was not let down.   I did spot a couple of parents from the school of my children and so also a colleague, a teacher who works with me.  After the usual exchange of pleasantries I asked her the most obvious and rhetoric question!  “Yes, the school for my children reopens in a couple of days and I am here to purchase the ‘stocks’ for the year!  They are ‘Back to School’, in a couple of days”, replied she, spontaneously.  I continued my shopping, after we parted company.

Suddenly, the ‘Back to School’ phrase she referred started me thinking in a tangential thought process.   Well, should only the kids go back to school with so much preparation and anticipation?  I have been an educator for around 15 years now.  It never occurred to me thus far that I also needed to prepare myself as a teacher before the beginning of the academic year.   While the meaning of ‘preparation’ in my capacity as an educator differs drastically from that of a student, the fact remains that this very obvious concept had never taken form in me.

During the lunch recess in the subsequent week, I and a few of my colleagues at school were casually discussing this subject.  That was when I realized that I had company in this thought and was not alone!  A majority of us were sailing in the same boat.  We had never thought of ‘us’ going ‘Back to School’. Needless to say, this subject now demanded attention and focus more than ever.  It could no longer be restricted to a lunch table discussion.  We collectively decided to set aside a full day to sit together in a workshop and explore the possibility of making this concept a reality.

The workshop ended up as a great ‘discovery’ exercise, surprising all of us to the extent that we had to break into deep individual introspection for several days that followed.

As an educator, how can I prepare myself well ahead, much before the institution opens up for the next academic year?  Have I done enough work to deeply and personally understand my sphere of influence, namely a class or a group of classes or a section of the organization?  Each year the student inflow into every class is a variable and the same yardsticks of imparting education of last year may not apply to this new set of students.  I am a fresher as much as the student.  I maybe a veteran in imparting lessons in my subject of specialization, but what can I do differently this year which will further increase the impact of my teaching?

Some and many more of these tough but pertinent questions kept pounding us during the workshop, making us wonder as to why are we not ‘Back to School’ and why it is so important to be.

The question list kept expanding and demanding too.  However what really stood out amongst all of these important questions was, “Are we as educators doing enough to make the teaching-learning process enjoyable?”

Most successful people have become successful only because they loved what they did.  When one loves what he or she does, it becomes an integral part of oneself.  The commitment therefore to come out with flying colours is not really driven by any external factors or push.  The entire process is driven from within and thus passion and commitment are but given components of the process.  The outcomes are therefore natural and undoubtedly will be outstanding.

I am a fresher as much as the student.  I may be a veteran in imparting lessons in my subject of specialization, but what can I do differently this year which will further increase the impact of my teaching?

Students today are compelled to look at the outcomes right at the beginning rather than enjoying the entire learning process and leaving the outcome to be an end product of the process.  We are a witness to many a student today who would be able to solve a complex mathematical equation by flawlessly applying a ‘standard’ set of techniques.  Yes, they would definitely score well in their exams.  Not many of them however understand the underlying principles in completeness and therefore limiting their capabilities to look beyond and scale greater heights.  While this phenomenon is largely driven by social compulsions today, only those students who enjoy the entire learning process will be successful in their lives, beyond the walls of the school and colleges.  Excellent grades are a natural outcome when he or she starts to enjoy learning and is not pressurised by outcomes.

As an educator I promise myself that I hold myself responsible to make this a reality.  I will be prepared and willing to go ‘Back to School’ as many times as required.  An educator is only as good as a learner he or she is.  I would like to be the teacher who gives something more than homework!

While I shop for pens, pencils and books for my children next year, I hope to meet the same colleague in the same shop and ask her “Did you go back to school?”  I hope to tell her that I did!

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