According to this English teacher, educators should work continuously to motivate every kind of learner.
Lekha Mukherjee, an English teacher from the Shiv Nadar School in Noida, says that when she was young, she harboured no inclination to be a teacher. “My mother was a teacher but I made up my mind that I would never become one,” she says. Lekha went on to acquire an impressive set of qualifications, including an undergraduate degree in finance and an MBA in Human Resource Management. But then she decided to pursue a B.Ed in Commerce and English.
She did eventually seek diverse teaching roles, all outside the school classroom. She was an assistant professor at IILM and taught at the NDTV media institute before she finally made the move to schools. With 15 years of teaching expertise under her belt, Lekha now teaches sixth, seventh and eighth graders at the Shiv Nadar School.
For someone who has taught across age groups, Lekha believes in a teaching strategy that applies to both adults and children. “My philosophy is that unless you get your students to like you, you simply cannot go ahead and do anything with them because they don’t always want to learn,” she says.
Technology in the classroom
Technology, for instance, can really fill the gaps here. “Today, technology brings in various ideas and ways to go about engaging with students in the classroom,” she says.
“I have found that if students connect with real-life situations, it becomes ingrained in their memory and their recollection is better.”
Lekha believes that gamification of school content, really motivates learners because they love to see their name on the leader board and enjoy it when they are encouraged to think on their feet.
“With COVID-19 disrupting school schedules, we have actually started to do online assessments,” says Lekha. “We had prepared for this but the situation pushed us into it sooner than we expected. We have been having online assessments all week. We have had teething problems but we need to keep improving and moving forward. Everyone is moving to a tech-based and paperless environment.”
Teachers are not the arbiters of knowledge
Education has come a long way from the chalk-and-talk classroom, a classroom that upheld the doctrine that teachers were sacrosanct and unquestionable. “Students today are very different,” says Lekha “They will take out a device, refer to online resources and correct the teacher if necessary. Educators need to be open to the fact that they cannot know everything."
"The more you teach, the more you learn. The student’s age does not matter. They will always have something to teach you and as an educator, you will always have something to learn.”
Teachers should acknowledge the fact that the student in front of them may actually be better informed about a topic. “Unless teachers have an open mindset, it is very difficult” When teachers role model an open and collaborative approach to learning, students too understand that they should keep an open mind. After all, learning happens everywhere and with all kinds of interactions.
To keep tech-savvy students free from distractions and constantly engaged, Lekha advocates for group activities that do involve technology in an open-ended manner. “I find that English grammar is layered and complex,” she says. “As a teacher, you cannot always know everything about it and there are so many contradictory rules.
When a student came up with a question that did not have straightforward answers, I flipped it around and told the students to go home, research this topic and come back with presentations.
They were very excited and eager to present their research so I actually took this up as an assessment. Students came, presented and explained the rules and taught the other children the rules too. They used their gadgets to research and it was a collaborative effort.”
Minimizing distractions in the classroom
According to Lekha, a teacher’s biggest challenge is to get across to certain students who are adamant about not wanting to learn or who are more distracted than other students in the classroom. The traditional method that expected students to copy notes from the blackboard, memorize them and reproduce this content in exam papers finds no takers among today’s students. Instead, teachers should run classes based on discussions and collaborations.
“Each child has a different aspect that you have to think about and address differently,” she says. “As a teacher, you need to be able to address the problem. You must tackle it in a way that is unique but relevant to that child. As a teacher, you need to figure these things out."
"The resources provided by Callido use many innovative ways of getting points across by using activities and visual aids. With such resources, students don’t even realize that they are learning or acquiring a skill. Callido has really connected these two dots and created resources that children can enjoy and learn from at the same time.”
Lekha opines that the ongoing COVID-19 situation has inadvertently pushed us to new forms of learning and we will need to adapt to different scenarios. We will witness new and unique attitudes towards teaching in the future and that is only the first step.