The Student-Teacher divide
Read all mushy posts for Teachers day a couple of weeks back..
Get outraged by the kind of innovatively wrong answers students come up with while checking exam papers a week back..
Witness both clever thinking and pointless-ly done assignments a few days back..
‘Enjoy’ an all time high interaction with students as a TA (in teaching concepts, clarifying doubts, arguing abt the correctness of their answers etc.) during the past few days..
You tend to think about the way teaching & learning is perceived by students & teachers.
You realize that there is a clear divide. Feel it more since you yourself are positioned ON the dividing line.
You find the divide depressing & put up a status message saying..
Looks like an entire generation has been ‘educated’ to believe that Good Teaching=”preparing short notes of a text book & presenting them in class as slides” and Learning=”memorize slides vaguely.. you can let your imagination run wild to interpret them when confronted with questions in the exam“.. Sadly, Thinking & Appreciating concepts do not find a place.
Well. . that sounded more like I am lamenting on behalf of the teacher (which I was doing), and it was quick to provoke heated arguments with friends. . All who have been only on the student side of the divide..
I say : Students do not utilize a teacher’s earnest effort to put across concepts in interesting ways.
They say : I haven’t seen too many teachers put any kind of effort! May be they do in YOUR dept, in YOUR institute. . But how many teachers do you remember from your previous institute who made learning interesting?
I say : …
I say : Students refuse to learn & appreciate basics or contemplate about any concept in detail. . They refuse to go beyond what the slide says.
They say : They would do that when someone provokes thought in them.. When someone makes them see that learning & thinking is fun. Who does that?
I say : It is a 2-way process. . Learning can be fun only if both parties put in effort.. For instance, students should be thinking why an assignment is framed the way it is. . What it is trying to make them learn/experience/appreciate. . and THEN attack the problem . . there is no point in mechanically doing an assignment and presenting a solution which most of your peer group agrees upon. How many do that?
They say : Do we have the time for that? You give us assignment after assignment, deadline after deadline in course after course. . If we sit & meditate on each assignment, when are we going to finish? And when are we going to find time to enjoy life?
I say : Well. . You can enjoy learning too. . If only you stop treating life as a rat race where courses are laps finished. Students seem to be more interested in scoring more than their peers than in learning. Why worry about “Am I getting a half a mark less than that fellow? Should I fight/beg the TA for that half a mark?” instead of thinking “I made this mistake & lost marks. . I have learnt what not to do now” ?
They say : Life IS a rat race, honey!
I say : Why do students (esply the post graduates who have graduated from non-IITs) seem to think that ‘covering’ a textbook is better teaching? Why do they prefer a prof who runs through every detail in the textbook in marathon-mode to a prof who takes it slow & steady & tries to get the class to think & appreciate the stuff? If I had to ‘cover’ a textbook, I would sit under a tree & read it. . not come to class at 8am in a cold November!
They say : …
They say : For all that talk, how many profs approach teaching with a passion? How many approach each classroom session with an infectious enthusiasm? They do a mechanical job, we too go through it mechanically.
I say : As long as students do not take the course seriously & show enthusiasm & commitment, how do you expect profs to retain their enthusiasm and do a great job? They are bound to get frustrated from seeing no fruit for their efforts. That means, you get a poor course experience cos you did not respond positively to the Prof’s efforts.
They say : !!! Profs get frustrated? I thought they’d be cool with their jobs. . Though it may be thankless & boring.
I say : !!!
Clearly, the arguments lead nowhere. . They are never-ending. . But they do throw up some interesting points..
- When would teachers retain passion for teaching & approach each class with an aim to put across basic concepts & provoke thought?
- When will students realize that going through the works of a course mechanically is mere waste of time & effort?
- When will teachers recognize the need to pause the grilling for a while & help students realize that their active role is important in making the course worthwhile?
- When will students realize that not all teachers fall in the category of “know nothing. . repeat something from textbook. . gives a damn about whether I learn something or not”? That in most cases, a lot of thought goes behind the way a course is conducted?
- When would this student-teacher divide be bridged?
Questions sound too idealistic & utopian eh?