Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Five Ideas for Teachers' Day

Teachers' Day is round the corner. Once again, we'll have the same old speeches, boring comments and everyone showing so-called 'respect' for teachers for one day - then it will all be forgotten till the next year comes around again! 

For those of us who feel we need to go beyond the usual platitudes, here are a few straightforward suggestions. As always, your responses and further suggestions would be very welcome indeed!

1. Prepare a 'Teacher Strength Chart'
On a chart, put a photo of the teacher (could even be children's drawing) and write down 5 things that you like about the teacher or 5 good qualities the teacher has. (Every teacher has these, just that some of them may not know they have them.) Who should do this? Students / SMC or parents / CRCC or fellow teachers. Keep the chart up for as long as you want.

2. Invite the teachers' families and honour them
Host a function where teachers' parents / spouses / children are invited and honour them along with the teacher. Why? Firstly because if a teacher teaches well, gives a lot of time, and lives up to professional standards, the family has to support the teacher and sometimes even make sacrifices. On the other hand if a teacher doesn't live up to professional standards, the family will... you get the picture! The SMC or the CRCC would obviously have to take the lead in organizing this, with students' help.

3. A special 'sports' session for teachers
Teachers have to be so responsible that they sometimes forget what it is to be a teacher. So how about something that helps them recall the time when they themselves were young. So you could organise a kabaddi or cricket match for teachers, or even races. Other possibilities include a Talent Show (whether teachers get to display their skills such as singing or mimicry) or even a picnic. Once again, the SMC with the students' help and the CRCC's support can easily organize this.

4. Stock the school library with books bought especially for teachers
Ask the teachers what they would like to read - and buy as many of those books for your school library as the budget permits. The CRCC would need to take active lead in this, with guidance from BRC and DIETs/

5. Launch a year-long 'Search for Greatness'
This is a difficult idea, so read carefully! Every teacher and every school can improve and reach a level far better than what it is today. In honour of teachers on Teachers' Day, the SMC and students as well as the CRCC can get together, promise their support and work out how they will improve the school in the year ahead. Together they will discuss what it means for their school to be 'great' (and will not focus on infrastructure but learning processes), identify concrete steps to attain this greatness (see suggestions separately in my blog), and work out a phased implementation plan (see ADEPTS). Teachers will naturally be part of this discussion.

You can build on the School Development Plan and dedicate the effort to teachers (of course, they too would take active part in implementing the plan). Inform the teachers that the successes will be because of them, and shortcomings because they would not have got enough support from us (that is our Teachers' Day gift to teachers). So this would be a year long effort to show our respect to teachers while also working with them to bring about actual improvement. Neat, no?

With some days to go, you can still plan and implement some of these ideas. In the meantime, let me have more suggestions please!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Why Corruption Is An Easy Issue To Raise

It's interesting to observe why the issue of 'corruption' seems to attract attention. Right now, across the country (and the world), a huge majority of people are oppressed by the accepted notion that it is OK for some to be considered 'above' others. That is why it is OK for some of 'us' 
  • to go to high fee private schools (we have 'earned' it), 
  • to sit in AC coaches in the train (we paid for it after all, never mind that the others' capacity to pay for the same is hampered by systemic and systematic obstacles), 
  • to feel that we belong to 'big' or 'important' families... 

Such societal hierarchies have a far greater impact and preserve disadvantage.

Isn't it corruption too to believe that one belongs to a 'better' or 'purer' religion / caste / class / background / family than others. Yet Anna and co don't raise issues of social fracture (conveniently forgetting that Gandhi spent far more of his life on these issues, and regarded true independence as one from social oppression too). It's worth thinking on why the issue of corruption really suits the middle class - it's so neutral and harmless, and avoids the really frightening ones. It's also something where you can blame 'others' without feeling that you are part of the problem...

As an educator, therefore, if I had to teach children any value, it would not be an ordinary thing like 'do not be corrupt' but the more difficult concept of 'though you are unique and deserve the best, do not think you are more important than others or have a birthright to more than they do'.