Has Anyone Asked Teachers This Yet?

Over the last two decades, as the number of teachers has grown, so too has a certain attitude towards them. This comes up in different ways in the various interactions we have – during school visits, meetings at cluster or block level, workshops and training programmes for different groups of personnel, and informal interaction at all levels. Somehow, the discussion ends up at the teacher's door. And the following statement springs forth: 'Teacher is at the heart of the matter sir; only when teacher improves can anything improve.'

This is then followed by a long list of what teachers are not good at, including examples such as (this is a mild list!):
  • Teachers don't practice Quality Teaching
  • Are not able to 'go according to the level of children'
  • Don't make use of psychology (I assume this means something called 'child psychology')
  • Application is missing – teachers are not linking concepts to practical life.
  • They show a lack of Social Awareness
  • Don't go for innovative activities
  • Don't do voluntary service
  • Don’t give examples while teaching
  • Don't pin accountability for the task given (i.e. don't take responsibility themselves)
  • Fail to develop or revive the interest to teach
  • Are not flexible to change their mentality
  • Don't give individual attention to children
  • Are not patient
  • Don’t make use of case study
  • Don't take a friendly approach
  • Are poor listeners
  • Have no tolerance
  • Are partial
  • Reluctant
  • Lazy
  • Lack in adaptation, and don't update their knowledge
  • Are in a hurry to get the product rather than being bothered about the process
  • Expect more with little effort!

Believe it or not, this is an actual list produced by participants in a workshop (which also included teachers!) and is also typical of most parts of the country.

But when asked to name any strengths that teachers have, what you usually get are blank stares or a scrawny, reluctant list of maybe four points, such as:
  • Covers syllabus in time
  • Preparing children for getting marks.
  • Good in lecturing (encouraging rote learning)
  • Conducting special coaching for those falling behind

As you can see, no shortage of left-handed compliments here!

Typically, when asked if they've actually asked teachers what they're good at, or what they feel they're not good at, the people who make the above statements tend to draw a blank! However, when teachers themselves are asked what they're not good at, their statements include points such as these:
  • In trying to address the average student, I'm unable to take care of those who are falling behind
  • I find it difficult to make the subject interesting for some students
  • If parents can't help children with their homework, I find it difficult to help the child in class

Clearly, there's a perception mismatch between teachers and those tasked with appointing, deploying, orienting, developing, mentoring and monitoring teachers. It might be a little too much to ask, but the following seem clearly required;
  • There's a need to listen to teachers before coming to the kind of conclusions we have come to
  • In order to go beyond impressions, systematic observation and research are required
  • How about finding out the strengths teachers have and how to build on them
  • Finally, what is the system doing to make some of its own dire predictions about teachers become true?