A Perspective on Teaching

Teaching is a profession with a difference. I would call it a vocation rather than a profession. It is an informal pledge to groom the youth as independent and useful citizens of the future. The transfer of information that we teachers do most of the time is only a means to an end. The real end of all teaching should be to help students develop their physical, intellectual, and spiritual faculties to their full potential.

Now, how to transfer information so that this means may lead to the desired end. The central point of this blog is that if we do this small thing in a big way, we can achieve the end. And the real role of the teacher comes in here, which is to transform or build information into knowledge. An analogy of conveying building material to the site of construction and using it to raise a building may make the point clear. Conveying the building material may be likened to transferring information, and raising a building may be likened to transforming information into knowledge.

The process of transformation is in effect the process of developing the faculties of the student. Information becomes knowledge when the teacher and the student engage in a regular exercise of analysis, synthesis, comprehension, and conclusion. This composite exercise necessitates vertical thinking, lateral thinking, collation, conflation, cognition, and systemization. Thus, the teacher is developing these crucial cognitive faculties in the student even as he is creatively organizing these apparently disparate pieces of information into a system of knowledge.

But we cannot do this if we just continue to go through the motions of teaching the way some of us are routinely doing. We do a geometrical theorem, and the lesson ends. We attempt the rehash of a poem, a dramatic scene, a history chapter, a computer science or economics unit, and the lesson is over.  But there is the rub. The lesson can never be over without a proper follow-up and closure. A student should be made to think over and around the subject being taught and encouraged to come up with his views. The teacher must facilitate this exercise all the time irrespective of what he or she is teaching.

It is clear from the foregoing points that a true teacher develops in his students all the cognitive abilities while he trains them in their specialized areas of knowledge. In other words, he develops in them by default the ability to be rational in their approach to everything. And as, arguably, to be rational is to be moral, the teacher teaches most unobtrusively and spontaneously morality as well as rationality.  So, can we say that he can be taken to be doing his duty with perfection if he just teaches optimally? Can we also affirm that he is therefore vital to society in the way no other individual or professional is?
- PV Dhamija

A Teacher’s Revelation

Let no man in the world live in delusion
Without a Guru, none can cross over to the other shore      
                                                                        -Guru Nanak

The tradition of deep seated love and gratitude for the teacher runs all the way back to the days of Mahabharat in India, when Eklavya readily and happily sacrificed his thumb to Guru Dronacharya as a guru dakshina for the art which he learnt from his own dedication, perseverance and practise.  An ancient folk tale even emphasizes that if one comes across a Guru and God himself together, one would first pay homage to the Guru as he is the one who taught him to recognise God.
In today’s world of science technology, distances are reducing, communication is improving and every other educational institute is of Global Standards.  Internet has provided us access to every book, every journal and every possible presentation. Not only is there huge presence of study material and resources online, we even have full-fledged UGC approved e-learning courses and certifications ongoing.  While it makes our work easier at many levels, the key question for today is:
Is the technology replacing the teacher??

I, for one, wouldn’t underestimate the human element of the service of education.

A teacher is at times; seen as only an instructor but he or she is also a friend, a philosopher and a guide. Through my own early years, my mom (a mathematics teacher) tutored me not only in her own subject but also in the arithmetic of life. In the loneliest of troubled teenage, sometimes; your favourite teacher gives you a greater listening ear along with a patient and sensible advice than any best friend. The same thought has brought in the concept of mentoring small groups of students at university level.

Just some of the ways a mentor helps you through your stay at university are:
1.      Your mentor is a mature adult who would technically and ethically guide you through some of your tricky moral questions which your friends may not be able to answer
2.      The mentor monitors, supervises and appreciates your academic and extracurricular performance and many at times, even motivate you to surprise yourself by unleashing your hidden talents.
3.      As mentors, we are here to listen to your problems, and get your voices heard to the right authorities at the right point of time in the most appropriate way of expression.
4.      We want to connect and bond with you and your families to build long lasting relationships.

A Small Message to Students-

Dear Students, your teachers and mentors constantly worry for your attendance and grades (sometimes even more than you) many at times even by neglecting their own comforts and family life.  And even then, we don’t expect the devoutness of Eklavya, or a whole day full of flowers, all we want is the best for you and your future with a simple doze of obedience, with a dash of sincerity. 

“They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel." - Carol Buchner

Swati Oberoi Dham
Assistant Professor
School of Management Studies
Ansal University, Gurgaon