Signs of the Times should shape new Teaching priorirties

Teachers keep doing certain things in school because we think they are good for the children we teach, and sometimes simply because we have “always done it”.

For example, should we continue to teach young children how to use a dictionary? The dictionary in the book form is on its way out – the Encyclopaedia Britannica has already vanished. Word meaning, etymology, usage, synonyms are all available at the touch of a screen. We have to find other ways of teaching alphabetization. Sorting, sequencing and categorizing are important skills.

However, we must continue to teach and learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide and also memorize multiplication tables despite the widespread availability of calculators. Nobody can develop clear mathematical concepts if a calculator is used from the start. Learning to do simple arithmetic in our heads helps us to take many spot decisions. Similarly, people who are completely dependent on the global positioning system will totally lose their sense of space and direction if they are not taught to read a map. Learning to tell the time is a big achievement for a child, but reading the time from a digital clock just indicates that the child knows how to read numbers.

Letter-writing has always been an important part of the English language syllabus. But it seems rather pointless today to teach students the appropriate use of “Yours truly”, “Yours faithfully” and “Yours sincerely”. Rather, it would be useful for them to know that he or she will never be “Your’s”. And that a teacher should never be addressed as “Dear Mistress”.

We teachers must recognize the signs of the times. Electronic communication is here to stay, with its own distinctive rules. Regrettably, we must forget the elegant writing styles of yesteryear, but we should at least demand crisp, precise and grammatically correct language.

We feel quite smug having kept all mobile phones out of school. Phones are dreaded instruments and teachers live in anxiety as to how these smartphones would be put to use by their students. But are we not responsible for our children’s education, and not just their behaviour while in school? High school students need to develop a sense of responsibility and learn how to handle the trust that is reposed in them.

Restricting and banning are the easiest ways to control, but we are failing in our task of teaching children how to use the internet safely and ethically. Of course some will misuse their phones, but do we ban examinations the moment one or two students are caught cheating? Our work is to penalize and educate those at fault and not impose a blanket ban, although it makes life so much easier for teachers and administrators.

Finally, why do we still try to fit all children into the same mould? Why isn’t there more room for differences and variabilities? We just do not stop to reflect on what we keep doing. It is high time that we recognized the truth: that we are handling new-age children with outdated mindsets.

Prepared by Devesh from a piece by Devi Kar

NEWSNET ONE

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