Do you remember having a good teacher? Or a particularly bad one? Reflect on your memory, what was about it about this teacher that makes them stand out for you?
As soon as the prompt appeared for this week’s reflection on the What Future for Education course, the image of Nalini madam from NHPS immediately popped into my mind. So, I had to use her to reflect further; was she the good one? Was she the bad one? What made her stand out from the other teachers I’ve had over the years?
Nalini madam taught us Computer Science from Grade 8 until 10. She was also the head of the Computer Science department, which was a post of great reverence back in the late 90s, when the tech world was beginning to flourish in India. She was in her late 50s, wore a pixie cut, had natural streaks of grey, black and white (even before the salt n pepper trend caught on), and always wore sleeveless blouses to match her crisp sarees. Her reputation preceded her and we knew about her being a cleanliness freak even before we hit Grade 8. A number of my classmates had been left in tears after a powerful dressing down from for not washing their hands after a restroom break or letting that nose drip over in class.
She was always good to me and is one of the few teachers through my life whom I’ve been friends with. We had fun trips to her home, where she made lemongrass tea for us, from grass picked fresh from her garden. I think her genial behavior was a reflection of the kind of student that I was back then – did well in her subject, often aced her tests and quizzes, was respectful of her for her age, and was obsessive about cleanliness in my own weird way. In all honesty, I was an avid people-pleaser back then and would do wheelies if you asked me to, just to get on your good books. In the end, she and I were in good terms always.
But when I think of her as a teacher objectively, she was not great at teaching. She was often unapproachable to most children; no one dared to go to her after class to clarify their doubts. She was extremely short-tempered and often used fear tactics to get her class to behave. Her teaching methods were mostly lecture-based and there was little to instill curiosity in the subject except for its innate nature of being novel during those times.
I feel that this difference in images of one person as a teacher is what made her stand out among all others. Most teachers were universally genial or strict. She was one that very evidently had different behaviors and left different students with different opinions.
How does this image of a teacher relate to other images you have of a “good” teacher?
With that evalution, I think there are a few attributes that come to mind when I think of a good teacher
- She should be approachable – available for the students
- A friendly teacher enables students to relate to her better, and overcome the fear of authority
- Should employ teaching methods that allow students to think
- Should trigger discussions and debates in class; should never be the first one to give the answer out
- She should be a lifelong learner – the know-it-all never motivates children to learning.