In school, I was expected to learn a variety of subjects from History to Biology to Political Science. I was very interested in a few of them, while I just pretended I was listening in the others. At that point of my life, I couldn’t study a particular subject of my choice, for example psychology or electrical engineering. I had to sit through the classes irrespective of my interest or approval. Now I realize how many precious hours I wasted just waiting for the bell to ring and wait for the next teacher to walk in. I used to wonder if there was anything interesting in subjects like physics and chemistry, if they would ever come useful in my life. All I cared about was whether I knew enough to pass the exam.
Sadly, everyone in class doesn’t have the same interests nor is their attention span similar. So how does the teacher address the different learning styles of the students in their class? One way to answer the question would be to understand the point of view from the students themselves. So what exactly does a student expect from his/her teacher?
As R.G. Risch rightly said, “respect is a two-way street; if you want to get it, you’ve got to give it.” My English teacher in the 9th standard was a very soft spoken person, but not a single student spoke or disturbed the class till she finished speaking. She used to give every student the same respect and value, be it a naughty student or the class topper. She was spoken of highly by each and every student, as they were equal in her eyes and for her, everyone had equal potential, just that it was in different fields that each was good at. So as there was immense trust that was built up between this teacher and students, even those who hated English did not shy away from asking questions and engaging in the class enthusiastically.
“The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained and he only holds the key to his own secret.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
I would have been happy if my teachers had asked my opinion on how their class was. I always had an opinion, just like all students always do. Also I felt that instead of bringing something up unexpectedly in the Parent-Teacher Meetings, the teacher could have given me a chance to improve, as then I would have had a chance to improve on it and take credit for it. Every student would like honest feedback about their weaknesses and appreciation for their strengths. Students dread being criticized in front of their classmates. I believe that most of the students remember almost every piece of appreciation they received in school although they might forget the names of the teacher or classmates after many years.
“What people need and what they want may be very different…. Teachers are those who educate the people to appreciate the things they need.” – Elbert Hubbard
3> Practical Application
I would always wonder how subjects like high school level mathematics or physics would ever come useful in my future. When I was in 3rd Class, our teacher taught us how to make lemon juice at school. Today it may seem insignificant, but for an 8 year old, it was an exciting proposition. I felt so proud that I could make such a complicated recipe perfectly well, but it was just three ingredients and four steps. When stuff that is taught in class can be shown as useful in daily life, it excites students like me, because we can go show off that skill to our parents and elders.
Context specific education allows students to flaunt their acquired knowledge and gives them the liberty to tinker with it; this not only fulfills their need for recognition but also enhances their interest in that particular subject. So, instead of complaining that children don’t read books or watch too much entertainment programmes, teachers should try to capitalize on students’ need for recognition and practical application of knowledge to lead students to naturally enjoy their subjects.
4> Inspiring Interest
Sometimes, the greatest achievement in a classroom for a student is to do the simple task of paying attention. In two scenarios- when I already knew what was being taught in the class and when I did not have a clue as to what was being taught- paying attention would be the biggest challenge despite all my good intentions. I used to give in to my strong urges to talk and ended up disturbing others. The real problem, however, was that the teacher failed to generate curiosity in the minds of the students in a way that facilitated using their previous knowledge and kept them thinking constantly.
I have always liked classes where there were activities, discussions and colors that made time fly by and enriched me in one way or the other. When the class is interactive and people bring different opinions to the table, not paying attention becomes a challenge. It is the complete opposite of the scenarios mentioned above. You get something new to chew on and are ready to form an opinion on it. I am inspired to learn the subject!
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ― William Arthur Ward
Abraham Vargheese is a freelance content developer by profession, who in deeply interested in studying human behavior. For him, learning is a life-long experience. He has also started developing interest in fields like Journalism, Politics and Sociology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.