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Posted on Monday, September 3, 2012

What makes a good teacher in the 21st century? Education Times finds out

Jonathan Long
Principal, Woodstock School, Mussoorie

The essence of good teaching is the ability to inspire — and that has always been the case. Good teaching is not defined by the mastery of a technique or even the effective delivery of a curriculum. In fact, good teaching has as much to do with who does the teaching as it does with what or how we teach. This raises questions about the ‘kinds’ of people who are able to educate effectively. We focus much on the what, when, how and why of education — much more rarely on the ‘who’ (who does the educating, what are the personal qualities they should be characterised by?) The over-riding quality of the educator should be what I would describe as a certain ‘seriousness’ about their own journey, a depth of questioning about themselves and the world and a sensitivity to the spiritual dimension of experience — for what the teacher is, that the teacher imparts. We are creatures for whom relationships are vital. As Goethe put it: ‘We only truly learn from those we love.’ Ironically, we often leave this critical dimension out of teacher training and even interviews; we’re often only interested in qualifications or so called professional development. But I want to know, who is this person, and would I entrust my own child’s education to this person? Do they have the propensity to develop the qualities of relationship from which a true education can emerge? Such a teacher has the capacity to help a young person find a grand passion in life, to ask the critical questions and to live with compassion and integrity.

Madhur Usgaonkar
Geography Teacher & Key Activity
Co-ordinator, The Shri Ram School

I think the biggest change that educators have to come to terms with in the 21st century is that students today have access to wider pools of information than we ever did while growing up; everything from Facebook to Reddit provides up-to-date information on a variety of topics in a form that is far more appealing than any syllabus-mandated textbook. The challenge for us teachers, then, is to enrich our coursework in such a way so as to put it on a competitive footing with today’s modern means of information disbursement. How do I make learning about the wind patterns in the Indian subcontinent, while teaching geography, just as exciting as updating one’s Facebook status? Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle; but whether it’s through in-class games, participation in online forums or YouTube videos, competing with digital stimuli is a pedagogical challenge that deserves attention from teachers across the world.

Geet Oberoi
Special Educator

A teacher in the 21st century should have skills that encompass not only imparting knowledge but being a friend, mentor and guide to a student. Today, this seems to be lacking and it is imperative that such qualities be restored. Discipline and following a code of conduct are two facets that a teacher should imbibe encouraging students to do the same. Versatility and dissemination of knowledge from all angles and with absolute concentration should be the top priorities. Schools in India today have opened their doors to all types of learners, including children with special needs. In this regard a teacher today needs to equip herself or himself with innovative ideas and a sensitive and a flexible mindset that understands the needs of all learners. I personally hold on to the belief that making happy individuals confident of their strengths, with a sense of humour, is far more important than gunning after academics and ignoring the rest. After all, however much we may coach Sachin Tendulkar, he will never be able to sing like Lata Mangeshkar!

Mansa Ram
Municipal Corporation Primary School, Janakpuri

In the 21st century, when the teacher-pupil relationship has changed entirely from that in the past, teachers must keep track of the evolving technology. A teacher, who uses technology — computer, internet, television, etc, is able to retain students’ attention better. In the current times, it is important for teachers to be practical and up-to-date with new applications. Another important aspect that teachers must take care of is the changing psychology of students, their areas of interest and levels of creativity. In a class of more than 40 students, it is difficult to know about each one of them, but through a few activities once in a while, teachers can work on comprehending and improving their talent.


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