Traditionally, the teacher-student interactions were based on the authoritarian model. But today the children look for teachers who are competent, knowledgeable, impartial and approachable. According to most educationists spoken to, things should be this way. But there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration.
It is an ideal situation, where the teacher becomes the second mother to the student. Like Principal Lorna D’mello, St. Thomas High School, Goregaon, says, “In my school at least and in Bombay, I find that many students come from broken homes. Either the father has left them or the mother is having an affair. With the presence of the teachers, at least they have someone to turn to. Thus the teacher has to be a mother, guide and friend.”
Teacher Premakala Selvan agrees, “This is happening in many schools. Even though the teachers are very smart and knowledgeable, if they are authoritarian, the students don’t like it. They like friendly and approachable teachers.”
Then where is the problem? Teacher Rashmi Kulkarni explains, “Actually teachers have to bend a little. Children may have problems like they had gone out station or had a family function. We have to let these students submit work later than the others. As long as the child gets the work done it is ok.”
That’s when the problem arises. How to keep track of all the older assignments with the burgeoning number of students? Rashmi has an interim solution, “You have to keep a track of such students. Every teacher is given a register, in which you can mention about it. Generally it is only a handful of students, who are not regular. We can keep track of them.”
Already there are so many lessons to take in the class and there is very little time given per class, what with other work for teachers like proxy lectures. (Though each teacher is the class teacher of one class, but she may have the responsibility of other classes as a subject teacher.) In school, the teachers are always on the go. Where is the time to keep track of the older lessons?
Then comes the question of punishment. Spare the rod and spoil the child? That was the dictum of older teachers. Today the situation is totally different. As Rashmi says, “We cannot go for corporal punishment. We cannot use even such words as stupid, let alone abuse them. Even a small reprimanding depends on how the child takes it. He or she may complain about us!”
There have been incidences, where unable to suffer any more, teachers have taken to other jobs like in call centres. “This is the situation in the schools today,” Jasmine Roseiro, call centre worker and former teacher. “The teachers are afraid that the students might complain about them! Therefore, the teachers tolerate all the awful behavior of some of the students. Then the students take undue advantage of the fact considering the teacher powerless in front of them. The students of today very rarely respect the teachers. Then the principal asks the teachers why they are not getting good results and why the students are not disciplined. The principal knows what is happening but has to reply to the parents and the management. Once an uneducated parent told me that they send the children to school because they cannot handle them at home! The same woman came to me later with an odd request. She wanted an off for her son from school that day because she needed him to take her to the hospital since she did not know the way!”
Writer Gauri Pradhan is another former teacher. She says, “I initially went into teaching because I had passion for it. After slogging even after the school hours correcting work-sheets and preparing lessons for the next day, without having work-life balance, we are paid peanuts. Currently the trend is of contract teachers. Even though you are well qualified, you are often not made permanent nor the contract extended. Besides, teachers are not allowed to sit in class. There is no space anyways, with the burgeoning number of students. The teachers can also get tired after all they are human beings. During paper-correction after exams, it becomes so hectic that we get nervous breakdown. There are so many papers to correct. A 10th std, student wrote in his prelims paper the process of how he would rape a girl! If these are the kind of students you get to teach in school, you can understand the situation. When the lady principal was told about it, she just brushed aside the issue! We teach them well with audio-visual support and try to reduce their physical burden of books, but if they do not bring interest to the classroom, how can we teach them?”
“There is a lot of politics inside,” says a retired teacher, who did not want to be identified. “The teachers are often victims of personal grudge of the principal or management. There is a lot of back-biting by senior teachers. Due to this in some schools, teachers are changed every 15 days. This affects the studies of the students. Besides, they do not listen to the teachers. Their attitude is why to respect them when we don’t know how long they are going to stay in school. This was not so in our times.”
Gauri reveals, “Only cunning teachers, who can convince the management what they have done is right, can survive. A principal once said ‘We cannot do anything else that is why we have come into teaching!’ Many teachers have joined call centres after having a bad experience with teaching. At least I could follow my second passion, writing and I am doing well in it. I adamantly left the teaching profession despite being told that I am a good teacher. There is a shortage of good teachers in schools here because many have left teaching.”
This article was previously published in Eve’s times magazine and has been reproduced here with the permission of the editor, Swati Amar.