THE INNOVATIVE AND CREATIVE WAYS OF TEACHING







A very dear friend of mine is an educationalist. He and his wife run schools and colleges in and around Mumbai. My friend and his wife did not start educational institutions the way a politician or an industrialist would start one. For a politician or an industrialist, the motive behind starting a school or college can be totally different. My friend and his wife loved teaching… They started off their career as teachers. Hence, for them, the motive behind running an educational institution shall always be that – to impart fine education.

My friend has requested me to conduct some programmes for teachers, co-coordinators, students and even non-teaching staff of the school. I am planning to do it in some days from now. As per the inputs from some of the school teachers, my friend suggested, this morning, that, as part of my programme, I should also focus on ‘innovative’ and ‘creative’ ways of teaching…

I will surely do that.

Well, by ‘innovative’ and ‘creative’ ways, my friend did not mean making teachers tech-savvy or entertainer-teachers (Make learning fun)… Yes, the world we live in is a fast-and-furious world… The old techniques of teaching have to be replaced. Yes, there is no dispute on that.

But, what can’t be changed or replaced is the love and passion for teaching. I have told this from every platform, and I shall continue to do it – that, if the teacher has become a teacher by her/his choice (by design) and not by accident (by default), then, teacher’s heart will guide her/him find ways to be innovative and creative.

As teachers, we get to teach all kinds of students… Bright, average and ‘dumb’… Affluent, middle class, lower-middle class and extremely poor… We get to teach kids from blessed homes to broken homes… We get the good, the bad and the ugly… Yes, we also get to teach differently-abled and special kids… the less fortunate ones!

So, no matter how modern, how innovative and creative techniques we tuck ourselves with before we step into the class rooms every day, when we actually go about teaching in the classroom, we need to listen to our hearts… That one inherent, God-given, strength alone has helped me sail through more than forty years of my teaching…

Have I not survived?

As each day is a new day, each situation in hand is a new one… A teacher needs to take it as a fresh challenge to solve, a fresh opportunity to grow as a teacher. The old adage says, “Teaching is twice learning.” I say, teaching is ten-times learning. In fact, if your class has fifty students on a day, you have an opportunity to learn fifty times on that particular day... And guess what: to teach and learn that lesson in fifty different innovative and creative ways!

Of the many ‘frustration-coated opportunities’ that came along my way, today, one stands out. I wish to share it here…

Bhavesh* lives somewhere in a chawl. He is in twelfth. His father is a truck driver and most of the times remains away from home (in other states). The family has financial problems; and, while enrolling his son in my class, the father had ‘pleaded’ before me for a fee concession. I had obliged after sensitizing Bhavesh on his attitude and responsibility. “Bhavesh, you are able to understand the situation at home… You are listening to the conversation now… Don’t let your parents and teachers down. Help reduce your parents’ worries…” Yes, all this I had told before taking him in. Invariably, I, also, share with the young ones my own story… how difficult it was for my own parents to educate us, back then, when I was a young boy. This kind of sensitization works well with many young ones; but, with some, it may not work so well, or it may not work at all… The skin can be that thick!

Bhavesh came to the classes barely for a month, that, too, infrequently… Finally, he disappeared completely. My calls to his place were left unattended… I stopped calling.

Two weeks ago, Bhavesh’s mother called up. “Sir, does Bhavesh attend the classes regularly?”

I held my breath!

Before I could bring myself to breathe, Bhavesh’s mother continued, “Have you given him holidays?”

I, calmly told Bhavesh’s mother, that he had not been attending the classes for more than four months now and, all my phone calls to her place were left unattended.

The mother could not believe what she was hearing from me. I had completed more than seventy percent of my portion (Accountancy). The teachers of other subjects had already done with theirs. There was no way we could teach Bhavesh all that, all over again… Moreover, he was very weak in studies. I tried to wash my hands saying, “Madam, I am very sorry… Please find someone else.”

It is a difficult situation. One cannot be too sentimental and too unrealistic while committing here. The change cannot happen the way we want it to happen. The mother began to cry over the phone, “Sir, Bhavesh’s father drives truck and remains always away from home. If he comes to know about Bhavesh, he is going to kill him. At least, you teach him whatever is left in your subject… The rest he will self-manage.”

I agreed, hoping against hope. It is two weeks now, and every day with Bhavesh is a new day for me… None of my old-and-tested methods seem to be working… He is a chronic case of ‘Lost Case’.

But, is he?

The mother, being a mother, has been covering up her son’s ‘sins’… Shielding him against the wrath of her husband. She has not given up on her son, yet. And, she has made me do that, too, as her son’s teacher.

This morning, Bhavesh’s mother called up. She sounded very disturbed… “Sir, Bhavesh’s father has come home and, this morning, he thrashed Bhavesh very badly. Sir, he doesn’t know that Bhavesh hadn’t attended your class for four months and nobody is teaching him the other subjects. Sir, I am begging before you: if my husband calls up, please don’t tell about it. I may not be able to see the consequences!”

Now, how will you handle this situation over the phone? How will you deal with this distressed mother? I am expected to become a partner in my student’s crime. It is every easy to handle it if I keep away all my emotions here… “Go to hell!”

It is already a hell there, anyway!

Within two minutes, there was a call from Bhavesh… “Sir, did my mother call you? Sir, please, please, please save me this time… I will change my ways from now onwards.”

For a while, I felt tempted to give a long sermon on the phone, “You ‘Lost Case’, couldn’t you get this into your skull before?”

But, then, something in my heart got me to say this, “Don’t worry, I will handle it if daddy’s phone call comes.”

How will I handle it? Will I cover it up? Will it help Bhavesh? Am I being too philosophical, impractical or naïve?

Whatever it is… I am being who I am - a teacher… Just like Bhavesh’s mother being who she is – a mother. We thrive on that eternal elixir-of-life called  hope-faith-and-compassion… Our ship will always be guided by that timeless compass called ‘Heart’…

So much for the so-called ‘innovative and creative’ ways of teaching our students… including ones like Bhavesh’s worried mother and his frustrated father!

*Name changed

GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.: Anil Bedi

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