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Children In Elementary School Are Raised Hand In Clasroom. Teacher Is In The Background In Front Of Chalkboard.

Teaching better

I am Sudha Mishra, a 42 year old teacher and principal of a school which deals with mainly pre-primary level children. Often there are a lot of interactions with the parents of the children about their developmental levels and child-rearing practices. It appears that the teachers and the parents are on the opposite side of the fence, while it is not supposed to be. You have advocated actions for the parents, what can the teachers do to help the children, the parents and themselves? There must be some ways in which the teachers can arrive at the correct guidance that can be given to these young parents. Please advise.

Sometimes young mothers and fathers will come to us to discuss the problems of their child and for guidance. They have problems – some based on realistic exigencies, some others. They will smile, acknowledging the fact that it is a formal meeting. Then they will, perhaps, in a very trifle manner, ask about what actions they should take regarding some problem with their child. At that time we feel pushed to answer their questions, to take on the role of a teacher who knows every answer and to encourage the parent to be a compliant follower. Many a times we are sitting behind our desks, listening to the parent. It is not easy to follow the thoughts that go through our mind then. When they are talking it is evident, that they are concerned about their child, but why are they so emphatic about the correctness of their actions. Is it to calm themselves about leaving the child with someone else or has something else caught their imagination? Although they may not sound very tense, it could be a way of calming themselves in a rather artificial way. There is something about their tone of voice which makes it difficult to broach the subject of their anxiety at leaving the child in order to push aside difficult issues with regard to psychic reality. And, in the back of our mind, there are all sorts of private thoughts about our own partings from our children when they are small. We easily understand and empathize with their needs to remain in the exclusivity of their primary maternal preoccupation. The question is, of course, how to respond, what to say, to what to relate, what thread to pick up.

The impossibility lies, in the great difficulty in giving a consistent answer to the question, what facilitates growth, emotional and intellectual this, in regard to parenthood and childrearing. In teaching practices we have endless and unresolved discussions about developmental factors, for the same reasons of dissatisfaction and doubt. Both in raising children and in teaching students, we have infinite variables in an N = 1 experiment. It is more or less impossible to reach clear and unambivalent conclusions. We could formulate this slightly differently. As teaching practiced today, we do not have to invent the wheel. We have a huge inventory of theoretical literature, based not on a single theory, but on many. The teacher in his/her practice stands as a kind of mediator between his/her student and the theory, or theories. The question is – what about us and theory in general, or to put it more intelligently, how is our teaching attitude formed and informed by theory, how is our classroom work informed by theory, what happens to the theory when we are sitting behind our desk and talking to parents? There is an attempt to isolate the one guiding element among the variables, and to translate it into one path-breaking art. 

Today, on the other hand, we are surrounded by a plethora of teaching theories and part theories of parenting. How does this embarrass de richesse affect our thinking, and how does it affect our day to day work? Undoubtedly it both enriches and confuses us. This question is connected to the development and formation of our identity as teachers. There is a lot of parallel between the work of parents, especially mothers and that of teaching. History has always taken the teacher as a parent, as an objective mirror. The concept of guidance has been taken from the area of parenting and applied to some extent metaphorically, to teachers. There is a lot of movement towards finding analogies between teaching and child rearing. Some of the adjectives that might come to mind are “protectiveness, the commitment to nurture, consideration of developmental needs: all these are common to parents and teachers

(to be continued)