Gift for teacher? Classroom Discipline


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/631432/gift-teacher-classroom-discipline.html

S Radha Prathi, Sep 5 2017, 0:08 IST

If teachers were asked what they would consider the best teacher’s day gift, the answer would be an unanimous chorus — classroom discipline!

Well, that happens to be the harsh truth. An average classroom in any school across urban India is almost always in a state of chaos. The teacher-student ratio is unwieldy in most. Under the circumstances, a conscientious teacher has to also double up as the bad cop, usher the students to step in mentally, not just physically, into the classroom. Healthy classroom practices like interactions, discussions and debates on the subject of study is often replaced with pontification, which has almost become a mandatory feature in the lives of teachers. Seldom can they do much else, because the law of the land forbids them from using the cane.

Most teaching staff are ashamed or afraid to rope in the help of colleagues, seniors or the head of the institutions because they do not want to show themselves to be weak or helpless. Besides, they do not want to jeopardise their chances of getting an increment by showing themselves to be lacking in class control skills. The students, for their part, ranging from primary school to the undergraduate levels seem to find it extremely difficult to sit still in the class and focus on what is being taught. Their attention span seems to be consistently declining year after year. They seem to have collectively traded the art of listening for the art of merely hearing that serves no purpose.

Such being the case, teachers have to often repeat themselves to reach out to everyone in the audience. In the process, a sense of repetition and redundancy sets in in the ones that got it the very first time. They become restless till the teacher takes the lesson forward but only after another round of disciplining. When this exercise becomes repetitive, it can get tiresome for both the students and the teacher. Precious classroom time is spent in shepherding students individually or in little groups into a state of silence before continuing with the lesson. Over a period of time, both parties get familiar with the pattern and play it out like clockwork to the point of frustration.

When teachers bare their hearts out on the subject, they are told categorically that “content is king” and the conduct of the teacher is the benchmark in a classroom. While that may be true, even experienced and passionate teachers who do know their subject and carry themselves with dignity are finding it difficult to handle disruptive behaviour. All the same, teachers agree that kids should have their fun and freedom as long as they do not constantly disrupt the classroom. They also vouch for the fact that the young are perfectly nice alone; it is only when they get together they become unmanageable.

It is time for us to unravel this conundrum. The restiveness stems from the environment the child comes from. The pressure to do well and realise the dreams of their parents has pinned them down. The gadgets they use and the amateurish exposure they get to various subjects on the internet make them feel that they know it all. The junk foods they consume, the sedentary lives they lead and the assorted pollutions they have to deal with have rendered them weak. Their preference to play with gadgets than with siblings or friends has made them strangers to empathy. The stress and strife of modern life is taking a toll on the children.

If we hope to salvage the future of our children, we must work on these issues on a war-footing. Remember, the family is the first school and the mother is the first teacher. Parents should make it their own imperative to spend quality time with children no matter what their age. Children who hail from sensible, ethical and loving homes will reflect those qualities.

Having well behaved students can prove to be a tremendous boost to a passionate teacher’s morale and her capacity to teach. Precious class hours can be channelised to sow the seeds of knowledge, nurture analytical thinking, and help children blossom into responsible, intelligent and considerate individuals. When teaching becomes a fulfilling and pleasant experience, a teacher can make a world of difference to the taught. When that happens, every day will be Teacher’s Day!

Self Respect Vs Ego


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/616605/self-respect-vs-ego.html

Most misunderstandings and rifts in personal and social relationships can be resolved if people start discerning the difference between having self respect and being egotistic. Oftentimes the two traits are confused for one another. While the former is commendable, the latter can prove to be detrimental. The Mahabharatha chronicles the tale of the foremost Guru Drona who rose to great heights because of his self respecting nature and fell from grace because of his bruised ego.

The immensely talented man of humble origin gained employment as the teacher of martial arts to the princes of Hastinapura. Though the royal household came forth to sponsor his living expenses and that of his family, he politely but firmly declined the offer. Drona had a son about the age of the Kuru princes. Yet never once did the self respecting teacher encourage his son to partake or enjoy the privileges of his highly placed peers. He lived and provided for his family within his means.

Once, his child Ashwaththama saw his regal friends drinking milk. The curious child longed to taste the white liquid. When he expressed his desire to his parents, he was given a tumbler of wheat flour mixed with water which the child drank happily thinking that it was milk. Drona could have had all the milk his son needed. Nevertheless the self respecting man would not accept any help from his employers before it was time to collect his rightful Gurudakshina.

It was around this time Drona’s wife Kripi reminded him of his childhood friend who had become the king of Panchala and requested his friend to seek his help. Drona was reluctant in the beginning, but went along all the same to meet his friend for old times’ sake.

Unfortunately for him, Drupada refused to take cognizance of him and behaved high-handedly. Drona was deeply hurt when his erstwhile chum offered him cows by way of charity to a Brahmin as against the token of friendship. Drona vowed to trounce Drupada’s arrogance.

One thing led to another and to make a long story short when the master’s self respect manifested itself as his ugly ego he failed miserably, to the point that his dead body was beheaded by Drupada’s son Dhrishtadyumna.

Evaluation of Evaluators


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/615851/an-evaluation-evaluators.html

The citizens in the world of academics are only too aware that there are wheels within wheels. Students, their parents and their teachers know that the path to progress is many tiered.

Students have to imbibe what they are taught, customise their knowledge to cater to the needs of the examination system and then await results post evaluation. The process appears to be ancient, normal and warranted as far as one can see.

The evaluators take over from the point the students finish their examinations, and it is this factor that most students and parents are apprehensive about. Realisation dawns on them that the ball is no longer in their court; their results are in the hands of unknown evaluators especially when they take up the board or university examinations.

The routine of nervously scanning through the Internet and news channels for the forthcoming results can be quite draining to all examinees, no matter to which age group they belong. Though the law of cause and effect is well known to be proportionate, it is apparently not applicable in our desi educational system to a large extent.

It appears that the shloka from the Bhagavad Gita which says, “Karmanye Vaadhika-raste, Maa Phaleshu kadachana,” which means “You have the right only to do your duty, but never anticipate the fruit for your deeds” is applicable to the students who complete their examinations. That is why we find students spending their vacation with fingers crossed for the outcome of their performance.

The anomalies in the realms of examination results can range from appearing late to appearing wrong. Though all boards and universities do have channels for re-totalling, revaluation, availing copies of answer scripts and even provisions to appear in the court of law, the number of mistakes that happen have not come down considerably.

It is understandable that to err is human. After all, it is the teachers who correct answer scripts. It is quite possible that they could have made an error or two out of sheer oversight or fatigue. Considering the fact that they are also willing to recheck and award rightful scores when approached through proper channels also speaks for the fairness and the transparent nature of the system.

All the same, the students find it difficult to repose faith in the system because many of them have been unsuspecting victims of sheer apathy and convoluted processes which have scorched their spirits and singed their opportunities.

Shortage of evaluators

When the matter is scrutinised from the teachers’ point of view, many factors that seem to justify their slipshod job come under the magnifying glass.

Firstly, there is an acute shortage of evaluators. Since most teaching jobs are offered by private educational institutions, they have a floating population of teaching staff.

Teachers resign their jobs at the end of the academic year in search of greener pastures and are sometimes willing to take an unpaid holiday while in the process of switching jobs. This trend automatically shows a large dip in the number of evaluators during the annual academic break.
Teachers who are hired on a contract basis for the occasion try to earn a little extra money by hurrying through the answer scripts.

The teaching faculty with secure jobs usually decides to put up their price during this season and prefers to go on strikes and dharnas. They feel that it is probably the best time to make their presence and value known. The harsh truth is that teachers are the lowest paid educated class in society.

It is a fact that teachers are burdened with the onus of wading through a sea of answer scripts without respite and the remuneration mostly does not match with the effort put in.

Apart from that, the evaluators are answerable to the chief examiner as well as the students if they have bungled in the process of correcting an answer script or totalling the marks obtained. They can be even sued in the court of law for not taking up their responsibility seriously.

The callousness in assessment of students can be averted to a large extent if knowledgeable and conscientious teachers are chosen for the job consciously. In addition, they should be given their due importance, respect and remuneration. They will be only too delighted and diligent to carry out the responsibilities bestowed upon them. And then, the rest assured students can enjoy happy holidays.

Teach Them To Cheat Not


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/605715/teach-them-cheat-not.html

The examination season is on. This year appears to be no different from the examinations conducted over the previous years. It has almost become a habit for most under-performers to try their hands at some hanky-panky.

Students have been caught cheating, warned and even debarred when they have proved themselves to be incorrigible.

Diligent students who have worked hard right round the academic year feel let down when they find themselves being treated on par with some of their classmates who have been promoted as they resorted to copying in examinations.

On the other hand, students who do cheat feel that if they did not risk the malpractice, they would never hear the end of it from their parents besides being looked down upon by their peers and siblings.

Then there are instances of students running away from home and even attempting suicide when caught red handed in the act. When such a case is visualised in proper perspective, it is evident that the squad had meant to check the smooth functioning of the examination entered the room where the errant student was writing the examination, sending a chill down his or her spine resulting in the unfortunate decision of the student.

The copycat who deserves punishment ends up as the hero at the end of the day by sometimes making it to the newspaper headlines. The squad, the principal, the teaching and non-teaching staff are sent on an undeserving guilt trip for simply carrying out their duties sincerely by identifying the malefactor’s blatant blunder.

Then, when the surface of the matter is scratched and deeper introspection is employed, one can see that a lot of invisible hands are involved in doing the dark deed quite unintentionally.

‘Great expectations’
The system and the expectations of the parents, teachers and the peer group are collectively responsible for the immature decision of the wrong doers. Students are pressurised to give their best shot to excel in examinations so that they can emerge as victors in the rat race.

One cannot really discount episodes where the students are led to believe that they could get away with unethical practices.

There are instances where the invigilators actually promise candidates to look the other way for a price when the black deed is being carried out in the examination hall.

There is also a section of candidates who opt to pay for a fake course certificate to university crooks to facilitate their job search.

Compromise in integrity

Compromise in integrity and ethics in the examination happens with unfailing regularity because the educational calibre of a person is determined by the marks obtained by him or her as a student in the board and university examinations.

Personal interest of the student and the core competency for studying the subject appear to be the subject of little or no interest to most of the parents and teachers.

It is a common practice in our country for students scoring high marks to be absorbed in the mainstream or the science stream by the colleges impervious of the fact whether the student has the aptitude for the subject. The cream is expected to opt for professional courses like medical or engineering.

These toppers are the most sought after in the marriage market and job scene, and are regularly placed in the summit of the social ladder.

Those who do not fare well in these examinations are largely doomed for the rest of their lives because they could not prove themselves academically. This practice has almost become a tradition in our educational system much to the chagrin of the students who may have talent and aptitude for other aspects.

It is high time we as a society start respecting the individual’s decision and his/her field of interest. Youngsters should be told that it is important for them to do well in the chosen area no matter what it is.

Innate qualities like honesty, sincerity and sense of purpose should be nurtured in young minds by both parents and teachers to build their moral profile. They should be sensitised to the fact that it is better to fail in honour than to flourish by cheating. Only then can we hope to populate our nation with responsible, dependable and sensible citizens who realise that education is a means to the end and not an end in itself.

With Mind, Heart and Some Hard Work – Learning Sanskrit


http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-edu

Isn’t it sad that Sanskrit has become merely a ‘scoring’ subject? With a little interest, one can not only learn the language well, but also fare better in exams

Preparing for a Sanskrit examination can be very different from studying for examinations of other subjects. The language is exact in terms of phonetics, grammar, and syntax and very vast in terms of literature. The usual methods of learning by rote or trying to stick to important points based on previous years of question papers will actually prove to be detrimental to students. This is one of the reasons why students who usually perform very well in academics fail to make a mark eventually, because they do not score enough in the language paper. This syndrome is true across students of schools, pre-university, undergraduate and post graduate levels. A close observation of the performance levels of students reveals that their marks mostly does not construe to their learning curve. Most students take up Sanskrit, because they are given to understand that their subject will be taught and tested bilingually. In other words, one can answer the Sanskrit paper partially in English or in the vernacular. This facility has been assigned to the study of this language because it is no longer a popular spoken tongue. Students are deprived of a healthy exposure to Sanskrit in their daily lives. Its ancient, immense and precise nature can prove to be a little intimidating to a first time learner. Hence the system considered it fit for the language to be studied through another language. Over a period of time, teachers and students alike have gotten used to the support, to the point of converting it into a crutch of sorts.

It is mandatory to realise that each subject has its own nuance and should be approached with an open mind. Sanskrit is a phonetically accurate language, where we write exactly as we read or speak. Students of Sanskrit, no matter to which age group or class they belong to, will do well to read and write their alphabet all over again. Once the student is thorough with the alphabet, learning to split random words and rejoining them in terms of vowels and consonants will give the learner a deeper understanding of spellings, pronunciation and meanings. In the long run, it will also sensitise the student to the joining and splitting of words.

The next step forward will be to learn declensions of nouns, adjectives and pronouns. This exercise akin to learning multiplication tables in mathematics will make the student realise set patterns of declensions in terms of gender, number, case and the attached prepositions. Similarly when students learn to conjugate verbs in Sanskrit they will become aware of the root forms of verbs, person, number, tense and voice.

Buying a modestly priced Shabda Manjari will prove to be wise investment to a conscientious student. They will do well to practice the same by writing out the declensions and conjugations using different examples and also reading them aloud so that they become familiar with some basic vocabulary. This knowledge in turn will help a pupil to form simple sentences, do translations, and answer questions that follow comprehension passages besides framing basic letters and writing undemanding paragraphs.

Learning to distinguish between declensions, conjugants and indeclinables will set the stage for the learner to become familiar with the art of arriving at participles quite on the lines of forming or balancing a chemical equation. Besides the learner will find it easier to grapple the basics of Sandhi or the joining of words and samasa or the formation of compound words which is peculiar to the language.

Acquiring these fundamental skills will equip the student to not only score appreciable marks in the Sanskrit section but will also prove to be helpful while answering the rest of the paper in English or in the vernacular. Examiners normally appreciate the use of the Devanagari script in answers written in the other lingo especially while using proper nouns, key words, quotations among such others.

If for some reason, a student of Sanskrit has neglected the basics, it is never too late to repair the damage. All it takes is a little interest, time, effort and dedication.

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New Age Challenges of Teaching Undergrads


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/587593/challenge-teaching-age-undergrads.html

By S Radha Prathi, Dec 21, 2016,

Teaching at the undergraduate level is increasingly becoming a challenge even to the most enterprising, enthusiastic and experienced of teachers these days. Barring a handful of undergraduates, most students are hardly ever interested in the course. For most urban youth, it is a passage of rite to be fulfilled before they enter the world at large to pursue their vocations, businesses, jobs or personal lives.

Lecturers and professors both old and young who had gathered at a national seminar seemed to be speaking in one voice on their pet subjects. They began with the most sacred ritual of marking attendance which gains sacrosanct dimensions especially towards the end of the academic year.

The UGC insists on a minimum of 75% attendance requirement before taking up the prescribed examinations from time to time. Every student who falls short of the mark, unable to get a proxy or have the means to circumvent the problem, makes it a point to be there towards the end.

These students add to the nuisance value in the classroom because they are unaware of what is transpiring in the room and that naturally keeps them diverted. Interestingly, they are the ones who come up with ideas of having special classes in a bid to step up their attendance quotient.

These days, the courts stand testimony to the increasing numbers of affidavits filed by erring students suing colleges for depriving them of the attendance that would have enabled them to take up examinations.

Attendance has been boiled down to the level of being physically present in the campus. Never mind if you are late, distracted or have misbehaved in the lecture hall. A couple of medical certificates and wedding cards genuine or otherwise have the powers to set matters right.

Neither the students nor their parents seem to be unduly worried about the learning curve that could have shot up if discipline and diligence were employed. This act  is nothing but a sterling example of how colleges inadvertently nurture downright carelessness laced with rudeness which gains legal validation because of obscure processing.

Gone are the days when lectures were interrupted by garrulous youth and giggly girls who indulged in small talk or biting into a morsel of food during the serious hour. These days they are otherwise occupied checking or sending messages on their cell phones, that is if they are not playing or shopping.

If they are asked to deposit their instruments outside before a guest lecture, each one will take their own sweet time to make “suitable arrangements” before taking leave of their external organ for an hour or two.

Internet age
Taking down lecture notes is passé, because graduating youngsters believe that everything worth learning can be found on the internet. Necessary course material can always be bought, photocopied, scanned or stolen if necessary. Most pupils are not interested when there are relevant digressions from the topic because they do not figure in the scheme of the portions prescribed for examinations.

On the one hand, they want to be treated like adults when reprimanded for permissive public behaviour; on the other, they want to be spoon fed with the exact mark allotment for each question.

It is ironical to note that the youth of the world which believes in worldwide networking do not make an attempt to see the interrelated nature of subjects which can go a long way in shaping them as sensible and sensitive global citizens.
The harsh truth is students no longer learn to gain knowledge but to earn degrees. They attend college for the frivolous social ambience and not for getting a panoramic on various subjects. Politics, groupies and sectarian views have substituted the secular outlook.

Examinations, mark sheets and certificates have become passports to the first jobs which are usually procured through campus interviews. Hence, it is no wonder students are becoming increasingly removed from the teacher-taught equation. They have forgotten that being a graduate is not about procuring document, it is about graduating to a higher phase in life and emerging as a better human being who has some expertise over the chosen subject.

Matters will improve only if we are able to instill a love for learning in the young or just devalue degrees of the ones who do not measure up to display basic knowledge of the chosen subject and show evidence of etiquettes demanded of a graduate.

A Lost Childhood for Present Generation


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/556768/a-lost-childhood-present-generation.html

When middle school children were introduced to R K Narayan’s book “Swami and His Friends.” it was astonishing to note that they were not able to   relate to the stories at all. No, it is not just about urban kids, even girls and boys from small towns were unable to identify themselves, empathise or laugh with or at Swami and his friends.

It is hard to believe that we as a country have changed so much in just about half a century. When we make a conscious effort to list the similarities between the past and present, the basic facts remain pretty much the same. We are still following the system of education left behind by the British.

The premium is still laid on learning English and being tutored in the English medium schools has not lost momentum. The children get to study the same six or seven subjects with a syllabus that is altered with times. Learners have to take up tests and examinations based on the prescribed books to prove their worth and go on to the next academic level.

When we compare the emotional and intelligence quotient of children in the past and present we find that it operates in inverse proportion. True, children are well informed and intelligent today compared to the earlier generations.

Stressed minds

Yet when it comes to happiness and carefree attitude, they fail to measure up to children of previous decades. Even tiny tots who attend pre nursery and montessori classes are being subjected to a lot of stress. Not only do they have to perform well, but they need to clear interviews at esteemed schools to gain admission.

Then the mammoth responsibility of taking care of oneself from preying paedophiles is thrust on them. The ugly truth about the big bad world out there to devour their innocence is slowly but surely injected into their radar of understanding.

Children who instinctively attract a hug, kiss or a pat because of their cuteness now have to evaluate the affection shown to them in terms of good touch or a bad touch.

Gone are the days when young ones could be showered with candies and sweets at
the drop of a hat. A health check up in the school would amount to checking the height weight and sometimes the eyesight of the child.

However, nowadays, children happen to be bearing the brunt of lifestyle diseases for no fault of theirs. Juvenile diabetics, thyroid issues, obesity, asthma, a host of pollution related allergies and even cancer have stepped into the world of youngsters. They cannot enjoy a meal let alone junk food without caution.

Joys of ganging up

Unlike the past, children these days are usually loners either by choice or because the ones they want to associate with prefer being alone. They have one or two and sometimes no siblings to share their toys, clothes and books with.

Moreover, parents who can afford the money ensure that their child does not crave for anything. They seem to be totally unaware of the joys of ganging up to climb up trees and steal fruits, play “I spy” or hopscotch because lessons in being careful have far outweighed lessons on solidarity.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why children these days are a cleaner lot than their parents were at their age because they only play games on the touch screen when they are not sweating at their studies.

Those who do care for physical activities hardly find playgrounds or parks near their homes and there are also times when they do not have playmates because everyone is busy trying to ace the rat race.

The few who do indulge in sports and athletics do it with a definite aim of making it big; hence the slightest downfall or failure to win makes them turn to drugs or depression.

We cannot expect kids who have inherited an overtly exploited planet riddled with natural calamities and terrorism to be cherubic angels in folk tales and fairy tales. They are dealing with life as directed by their parents, guardians, society and system at large. Hence, it is not their fault if they could not appreciate Swami and his friends.

Nevertheless, it is in our hand to steer them clear from becoming contrite and contrived instead of becoming conscientious and constructive citizens in future.