Aao Parhao – A teacher can use all the help they can get
Originally appeared here:
A school is so much more than just a series of classrooms. A school is so much more than just a number of lessons. And an educated person is so much more than a literate person.
Education entails all the different facets that are crucial to the mental and physical development of a person as a responsible citizen of society. At the fountainhead of western civilization in ancient Athens, education included the arts and physical education as part of the curriculum rather than extra-curricular activities.
Far too often, schools in Pakistan are focused on grades and memorisation of lessons over a wholesome education. Teachers, feeling the pressure of producing results, may feel compelled to compromise on education to appease the demands of parents. An education is so much more than mere learning, or memorisation.
The teachers, alone, may not be able to see the bigger picture. Often, teachers have specific expertise, and are focused on their own subjects. The role of the school administrator becomes crucial in these circumstances to balance the need for students to score grades with the necessity of a complete education.
The school administrator, working in conjunction with the curriculum developer, should formulate an overarching plan for teachers, which focuses on learning crucial skills and developing abilities and talents, as well as expertise in particular subjects. Developing an overall curriculum is a specialised job that is often left to the whims of each school branch, or the teacher. However, a specially trained curriculum developer should be employed by each network of schools to develop curriculum for their private schools and by the government for public schools. It is their jobs to design what teachers teach, and take broader policy-based decisions.
The curriculum developer should create a plan for teachers that allows the breathing room in their schedules required to inculcate a more wholesome education and lays down goals for the teachers to achieve, other than simply grades; a great education cannot be quantified.
A grade does not define a student. The crucial role of the curriculum developer is to use the limited resources in a way to maximise benefits; a good yearly plan seeks to develop the personality of the student than simply teach lessons or concepts. The school has a vital role within the state structure to build up the character of its citizens. It is not necessarily the responsibility of the school to tell its student what is right and what is wrong but instead the school should train students to think critically and be able to differentiate between the two on their own. It is the school’s responsibility to equip a student with skills rather than provide prescriptions for behaviour.
Artistic activities cultivate the emotional intelligence of people. In a country like Pakistan, the first thing the upper echelons of school management must ensure is that schools are a safe space for children; a space where children can talk about issues which they might not be able to do so at home. All schools should have the ability to provide adequate mental counselling for all its students.
Psychological experts would be able to assess the behaviour of different students to deduce the reasons for it. If a student is acting due to any trouble at home, the school can provide an outlet for the student to receive the support required to deal with their issues.
Through debate and drama, the school may be able to tackle issues that might be hard to approach directly. The school administrators need to get more creative about getting through to the students.
All school administrators should not only encourage students to be forthcoming about their own problems but should also adequately train teachers to better counsel students in need.
It is the role of the school administrators then to ensure there is adequate teachers’ training. A list of creative ideas presented to teachers and using simulations to teach them on how to deal with problems would better equip them to deal with different issues.
All students should be allowed to dream and made to believe in their dreams but the most effective way to ensure a student stays on the right path is for that student to receive a personal goal path with small goals along the way. It is all well and good to use clichés like ‘aim for the moon, if you miss, you may hit a star’ but it is a more effective strategy to build a step-by-step guide towards the moon so a student sees immediate rewards for their work through a method of positive reinforcement, and encouragement.
The 2006 movie The Ron Clark Story, starring Matthew Perry, follows the true life story of Ron Clark, who left his suburban North Carolina hometown to relocate to a New York inner city school, where he felt he was more needed. Clark takes up the most disadvantaged class at the Inner Harlem Elementary School, a school with segregated classes according to test results. In a fascinating story, Clark realises the only thing holding the students from realising their potential was a mental block and a lack of teachers who believed in them. If a student is to succeed, they must be told that they will succeed.
A school teacher is a fundamentally different job than a college professor. An expert in the subject or the specific field may not necessarily make the best teacher. The teacher should possess the emotional intelligence to not get frustrated with children and teenager; they should also be able to asses all the socio-political factors affecting the children rather than focus on the mere subject matter.
The most important thing for any school is to create a healthy community where all stakeholders constantly communicate. The teachers, the administrators, the students and their families should foster a community environment providing constant support systems for each other. The school acts as a microcosm for the entire society. A strong school support system would inspire students to follow the same principles of help and support after graduating.
Everyone should share their problems, answers and experiences with each other to ensure that we all learn from each other. Effective communication also ensures there are fewer misunderstandings and we are able to understand the reasons behind the decisions of people, rather than jumping to conclusions.
The key to creating this community, effective communication and an efficient system in schools lies with the school administration. The trends set by them would permeate throughout the entire school. If the school administrators are able to create a safe space that fosters creativity, encourages learning and inspires students and teachers to perform, then in the words of Rudyard Kipling,
“Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it”.