Dear Parents, Teachers and Students
This year, I have not written Permaneo Vox (the last word) in the annual school magazine, Tarangini 2012-13, as usual. I preferred to say my piece here, on my blog, instead.
The theme is teaching, as usual. Many perceptions of teaching have come into being over the many ages of human education. Mine, over the comparatively brief period of my own teaching experience has evolved, as follows.
We teachers cannot directly change the learner’s brain function. We can but try to modify the learning environment to enable a positive interaction of the learner’s brain with this environment. The decision to change as a result, is the learner’s own, and the direction of the change is also decided by the learner. If this was not so, the same learning environment and inputs would have led to the same results in all learners. Yet, learning seldom occurs in this way. To elaborate, here is an example. A violinist teaches a melody to two students. Both students then play the tune correctly in response, showing the same initial ability. After one year, however, one student’s violin solo moves the audience, the other student’s rendition, though technically correct, does not. The difference is in each learner’s voluntary interaction with the learning environment, in the hours of sincere practice, or by listening to great players. This factor lies within the learner’s own choices and decisions, beyond the teacher’s control.
This means that we (parents and teachers) who play teaching roles should consciously focus on providing a rich learning environment, removing hindrances and adding strategic inputs. We teachers are the instrumental assistants in the scientific evolutionary process of learning. The learner’s own brain will do the rest – and this is also true for autistic, ADHD, dyslexic and all ‘differently abled’ learners. A relevant example is that, if verbal explanation or visual demonstration does not always bring about the desired ‘learning response’ then we must change the inputs to more kinaesthetic problem-solving. Learning by doing is not a cliché but a proven fact. All the five senses enable learning by providing stimulus to the brain. A rich learning environment, therefore, is one which engages all the five senses in transmitting information to the brain. The efficient teacher can enrich the learning environment by judiciously stimulating the senses to provide the brain with sufficient stimulus to enable learning.
A sound teacher should hence, focus on the learning environment instead of being unduly demotivated by slow learners or complacent about quick learners.
Sound teaching is a scientific, observational process of learning. We teachers are not learning to modify the learner’s brain. Nor are we directly enabling learning. We are learning how to effectively enrich the learner’s environment, whether at home or at school. In so doing, we should not forget the human learning environment, which is more vibrant and has a greater impact than even the most advanced electronic learning gadget (which, after all only simulates human acts and gestures).
We adults are like magnified gaming toys come to life. Everything we say and do, all our responses to stimuli we like or dislike are being scanned, memorised and processed for future use by the learners all around us, whether or not we are conscious of it.
Given this interpretation of the teaching role vis-à-vis the learning environment, who is not a teacher? Which one of us, consciously or unconsciously, does not, every single day, modify some learner’s environment for better or for worse?