MEMOIRS OF A DROP OUT TEACHER — PART 1

After 7 years of teaching, I have finally decided to ‘drop out’. This journey has been both enjoyable and painful. Enjoyable because I got to meet with some very bright, interesting, full of life, intelligent young souls who are going to “Heal the world” and as MJ said, “make it a better place for you and for me and the entire human race”. It was painful because I saw suffering all along the way.

1. I saw young children being bullied by adults, who muzzled their voice at the very first instance of their authority being questioned.

2. I saw confusion. On questioning, the child was beaten to silence. “You are disturbing the class” would be the quip.

3. I saw children being ticked away for sleeping in class — what could the child do if the teacher was so boring. What could the child do when s/he had been holed up in a room / building since daybreak and had had no opportunity for play.

4. I saw this yearning to play on the ground but alas the course had to be completed.

5. I saw this deep desire to learn and go beyond the prescribed curriculum. However, in most cases, the career teachers of today vis a vis the gurus of yesteryears, did not know anything besides the prescribed text. “I will let you know tomorrow” would be the usual response.

6. I saw children “begging” for marks. I saw children cheating for marks. Those who scored a 100 were heroes and those who failed were a scum on this planet.

Schools, as we know them, go against the very nature of the child. Children by nature are playful. They want to play, explore their surroundings, spend time socializing, rather than spend half the day in the classroom and the remaining half in tuition centres and at home doing homework. No wonder so many parents have complained to me of their children becoming rebellious as they age — people will revolt when they are made to do things that they don’t want to do.

The child is the key stakeholder in the education process. However, the irony is that the child has no say in how things happen in the school — when will they study, what will they study, how will they study, whether they want to study today or not — these are all questions that the ‘know all’ teachers decide. At best, their opinion is sought on certain matters. Not only are they made to do things that they do not want to do but even the exact manner in which it will be carried out is decided by the teachers. It is said that children are immature and so better knowing adults need to take these decisions on their behalf. The fact is that a 5 year old child has maturity and understanding that is apt for a 5 year old. The problem lies with us — the adults — who want a 5 year old to behave like a 15 year old.

Schools should exist so as to promote free thinking and develop character. However, the emphasis is simply on scoring high grades in exams which need not necessarily promote either. Elon Musk, the co-founder of PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and whose company SpaceX has developed the first reusable rocket, recently remarked that schools are not teaching what they should be — problem solving. After all, that is simply what we do throughout our life.

Education has been broken down into fragments and therefore teachers often fight a turf war so that children excel in their subject, completely oblivious of the preferences and interests of the child. Check out this picture

The test asked for “How big a hand did Gandhi have in the Indian freedom struggle?” The kid playfully makes a hand and says, “This big”. Instead of appreciating the creativity and the ability of thinking out of the box, what does the teacher do — “Call your parents”.

(To be continued)

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