My most distinctive memory from when I started teaching as a 21-year-old was the fearlessness of the students who sat before me in my first class. At the time, I wasn’t much older than them, yet, there was a marked difference in how they approached their educational journey. This was a generation that entered classrooms with the confidence that their ambition could germinate into a better way of life in the soil of learning. They were eager to learn and fearless in asking questions. As a teacher, there was no better fuel for me than their curiosity.
India has a long history of being recognised as a favourable environment for honouring and empowering teachers. In the 21st century, the cornerstone of every nation is tied to the education of its youth. With 9.7 million teachers in the country, we have a unique opportunity to capitalise on India’s promising demographic dividend.
In recent years, the indomitable spirit of India’s children has only grown stronger alongside the teaching community of the country. I’ve had the privilege of growing and evolving as an educator thanks to the lessons I learned from them. This Teacher’s Day, I share with you what the students of India have taught me.
When most adults ask ‘why?’, children often ask ‘why not?’ Children are innately brave, and by extension, this makes them the epitome of adaptability. When Covid-19 changed the very nature of our lives a few years ago, children as young as the age of 3 were adapting to a whole new way of learning. Children in every corner of the country showed up to their new normal of learning with their trademark penchant for exploration.
This gave the teachers of India the motivation to experiment with new styles of teaching and the drive to show up for their students as best as possible. For many educators, this was their first ever brush with technology, and yet, they rose to their call of duty beautifully to ensure that India doesn’t stop learning. Converting my house into a de facto online classroom—like thousands of teachers across the nation—and taking live classes online would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the children at the other end.
Like many teachers, one of my early observations was that children aren’t afraid of making mistakes. What they’re afraid of is the reaction of the adults around them when they make one. By embracing mistakes as part of the process, teachers can create an environment of empathy that not just extends to students but to themselves too. Students making mistakes while learning isn’t an indication of bad teaching, it’s simply part of the process.
Every single child is unique and adopting a personalised approach, where students can make mistakes and learn, becomes paramount in helping children unlock their true potential. Teachers also add a level of empathy to the classroom that can lead to the most creative and inclusive learning environments. When India’s students find the launchpad of support from their teachers, they become champions of an unstoppable nation.
Over the years, I’ve found that technology makes me a better teacher. It gives me the tools I need to truly pique my students’ interest and to show them the workings of the world in a way that does their imagination justice. In a world where the future of learning is rapidly coming to the present, hybrid learning takes this sense of personalisation by way of empowering teachers with tech tools to a whole new level. India’s teachers, powered by the prowess of technology, will have the tools they need to educate students much more holistically—nurturing future leaders and change-makers. When its teachers and technology come together, India's learning ecosystem—which already has tremendous talent on both sides of the learning relationship—will be greatly strengthened.
Giving the world the number Zero and making strides even in the ancient world when it comes to science and maths, the teaching community in India comes from a long legacy of educators who have put our country on the world map as the land of learning.
But like most journeys in life, teaching is a two-way relationship. It’s the students of India who create the perfect mindscape for teachers to do their best work. Ultimately being a good teacher is about being a good learner. In the quest to boost students’ learning development in a dynamic environment, we must be lifelong learners. Every day I learn something new, which helps me improve as a teacher. My most recent class will thus be my best because I put all my newly acquired knowledge into it.
By empowering the relationship between students and teachers with technology, we have the perfect ingredients to create transformational education champions from India for the world.
The writer is an entrepreneur, educator and the cofounder of BYJU'S.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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