Teachers as Leaders and Learners: Know as you grow
Published by VIVA Education as a Prize Winning Article for Teachers' Day Contest- 2016
A leader is made, not born. A teacher too. In my career span of twenty years, I feel what I am today is the outcome of my innumerable interactions with some thousand plus students ,colleagues and my mentors.
My journey as a teacher started from the grass root level- the kindergarten. Having observed these tiny tots enthusiasm and unconditional love towards their school and teachers , and at times their unwillingness and struggle to drag themselves or being dragged by their parents to school, I learnt my first lesson in leadership. The first and foremost intention in these classes would be to make these kids cheerful at any cost so that they forget why they had been showing reluctance. Everyday is not the same, but one needs to be resilient, cheerful and find strategies to make learners happy as a result of which the outcome is always positive. If we are able to touch their hearts, our job is half done. When I saw my learners happy and eager to come to school, especially for me, I knew I was on the first step of leadership and they were my ardent fans.
A teacher leader has to first become a student leader. At every level, for students, the challenges are enormous and varied. Strategies to overcome simple classroom issues at the level of the learners provides them their necessary comfort zone. Once that is created, they glide through the academic year. This can be developed only through good rapport and trust of the students. They should feel free to confide in us, at times a teacher should know more secrets than parents. Such friendly bonds create trust and paves way for sharing knowledge.
A teacher should never enter class unequipped. The moment he/ she slips , and is unable to justify, the bond cracks. Learners look up to teachers as their sole source of authentic information, ( now of course some trust google more) . Yet, the teachers' conviction to deliver the subject simplified, releases the magic in class. When I was a young teacher, one of my mentor principal's guideline was' If one has to teach grade nine, start the concept as if you were teaching grade six'. Little did I understand the concept of differentiated learning two decades ago,but, I followed it religiously and the result was a wonderfully interactive class with all levels of students trying to understand and ask questions. Believe me, there was no silent listener. I have followed it through my long upward career graph and the strategy has never failed me.
Gradually, the focus has to shift to the questioning skills of learners. As twenty first century teachers, the onus is on us to train our learners to develop adequate research skills. 'Curiosity is the mother of all inventions and the solution to all problems' When, why and how , what next, should be the favourite words of learners at all levels. The more they ask, the better they learn. All teachers must encourage a questioning session among peers after every concept is completed. This questioning and brainstorming or rather having a Socrates dialogue in class will widen their vistas and bring out potential leadership skills of both teachers and learners.
A teacher becomes a leader and a complete educator through everyday learning. A leader never ceases to learn. Through academic experience and excellence, slowly a deft administrator rises. From managing four classes of 40 learners each, to taking charge of segments, understanding and implementing the standard operating procedures , gives birth to an able teacher leader.
Micro planning at every level is the priority. Effective implementation is the key to success. A leader has to envisage the long and short term goals of an institution. The vision as to where I would want to see my learners in the next 10 years, prods one to create strategies. This is also based on the kind of background the learners come from. As leaders, we also need to help them dream, and then equip them to turn their dreams into reality.
Revolutionaries are born in schools. Be it Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Dr V.J Kurien , Shri Kailash Satyarthi, Malala Yousoufzai or Saint Teresa... The spark unleashed from within with the guidance of their teachers and their contributions have transformed societies. The world is waiting for more such torch bearers who will create better living environment for today's and the future generations.
At no cost, should teacher leaders ever forget that they are responsible for restructuring society. Enhancing societal values among learners is the duty of the teachers. Teachers are the sculptors of the finest minds in the country. They are one of the world's best healers. They arm students with logic, reasoning , ethics and a warm heart. What more do we need! Teachers create a world of leaders .