By Nithya Sundaram
One of the biggest issues our education system is facing is the tussle between a popular teacher vs a professional teacher. There is continuous pressure on teachers to be popular with children since that seems to decide how proficient a teacher is. Very often the hapless teacher is forced to abandon professionalism for being popular.
There is a call from parents in most schools that teacher should be ‘nice’ to children. This means no harsh words and no action against defaulting behavior. The teachers’ lot is reduced to a pathetic puppet in the hands of children. They start to threaten or simply hold the teacher to ransom. Those teachers who do not care for the job, have thrown jobs to the wind and walked out. School managements become putty in the hands of such parents just because they happen to thrive on the fees paid by parents. The system instead of being a driving force is being driven by the whims and fancies of parents, most of whom are dictated by their personal needs. One parent believes the education system must produce marks and the other wants values, which again is individualistic.
Managements that don’t stand up to teachers will definitely find the quality of education falling and those who do fear it also fear a drop in student numbers. My experience, however, shows that if the school is supportive of teachers, it has produced both quality and quantity. Such schools are also likely to stand the test of time and that is how you have institutions that have a longstanding reputation. Great organizations are built over time and it calls for a concerted effort from both teachers and management.
There is a flip side to the story. There is that class of teachers who have made great headway just by being very firm sometimes to the point of frightening children. I have known successful professionals, who have told me that if not for the math teacher who threatened to punish the student coming to class without completing the homework, they would not have reached where they have today. Such stories cannot be about teachers who have tried to placate students and parents. There are those who have produced good results but have not been able to motivate children. This fine distinction goes unobserved by most. A great teacher cannot be measured by their popularity alone. The earlier that parents and managements understand this fact the better and unless there is an all-around effort to do that, we will not find our system forging ahead.
A professional teacher is firm and doesn’t buckle in the face of pressure. They are kind to children but never compromise on values and integrity. How does a parent and management detect it? That teacher who doesn’t give in to the temptation of revealing the questions before the test, one who teaches with passion but teaches with a firm resolve to make students work. The teacher also wants to learn, not just to teach. They involve the children in the learning process and is always willing to help when the student needs rather than when the parent is asking, which happens because the parent wants their student to improve not overcome weaknesses.
Perceptions about a teacher, therefore, vary. They all must be reconciled and the responsibility squarely lies with every school management since they are the people with the vision of great education.