Changing Role of a Teacher in a Changing Paradigm of Education
By Rakhi Gill

Whenever we think about the word ‘teacher’ the image that most readily comes to our minds is: a middle aged lady/gentleman who wears spectacles and occasionally carries a stick to ‘sort’ those who either refute his/her ideas or has flouted the rules and regulations of the school.

Well, I am sure the times have changed and we all realize that education is a human enterprise and authentic learning experiences as well as a healthy student-teacher relationship is the essence of education in the contemporary society.  This viewpoint is also reflected in the widespread changes undertaken by CBSE. They have begun to recognize that learning is not confined only to the cognitive (intellectual level) it has to be eventually integrated with the affective/emotional and non-cognitive domains.

The role of a teacher in this changing paradigm of learning therefore doesn’t remain confined only to ‘disciplining’ and ‘teaching the prescribed curriculum’.  She/he is no longer a ‘sage on stage’ whose views cannot be questioned but a ‘guide by the side’. 

Reconstructing the identity of a teacher

Empathy and sensitivity: Two essential qualities of a teacher as a counselor
Providing nurturance and support at an emotional level is a task that requires a great deal of effort.  While you don’t have to be a trained practitioner to understand and interpret the emotional responses of the students; making empathy a part of your repertoire makes a lot of difference when we try to fathom the causes behind the behavioral and emotional changes(which vary in their magnitude) in students.  You may think at this juncture what exactly does the term empathy imply? Empathy in essence is closely related to sensitivity.  It basically involves a process of feeling and thinking as the other person but keeping one’s reflective parts alive; genuinely understanding the emotions of the students but not losing sight of one’s own individuality.  Let us understand this concept with the help of the following case study. 

There was a student in our school who had been diagnosed with a psychological disorder when she was in her teens.  Her behavior was characterized by aggression, lack of interest and motivation and an extreme preoccupation with ‘orderliness’.  It was very difficult initially for the teachers to rehabilitate her in a normal classroom however with consistent efforts the student was able to cope with the academic pressure.  Her family was not very accepting of her problem and often attributed her problem to the marital distress in early years of her childhood.  The teachers and the counselor often observed the parents making attempts to extract sympathy and evading their responsibilities.  On further probing it was found that the pathological family dynamics, lack of healthy communication between the members prevented them to discuss the problem and find a resolution and evasion was a convenient stance.   If the faculty and the counselor had not sense the subtle manipulations by the parents it would have been very easy to get sucked into the whirlpool of emotions.  Although professional help was sought to help the student the teachers worked hard to help provide a congenial environment in the classroom so that the student could at least develop at a social level. 

Thus, we see that empathy and sensitivity are the building blocks of the teacher’s identity. These qualities are also important when we try to resolve the problems faced by a minority of students who suffer from various disabilities like learning disabilities or physical handicap.  These students often go into their shell and are unable to relate to their friends for they fear ostracism.  It is therefore important that the teachers not only bolster their self esteem but also sensitizes other children about their problem. 

Teacher as a guidance worker:
Apart from engaging in exploration of emotional problems teachers can do a whole lot of other things in collaboration with the counselor. 

  • Orientation workshops enlightening students about future career prospects can be organized.  Teachers can encourage students to form clubs for intellectual enrichment as well.  Workshops dealing with sensitive issues such as adolescent sexuality, anxiety and stress among students can also be undertaken to provide students with a platform where they can address areas which otherwise remain at the backdrop. 
  • Teachers can also involve parents in this entire process of generating awareness and creating a positive environment in school for personal growth.  In our primary wing for instance, parents often volunteer to speak with the students about their professions and careers.  Some parents have even organized theatre workshops for those who seek an outlet for their histrionic abilities. 

The poem below sums up the essence of being a teacher:

It depends on whose hands it’s in

A tennis racket is useless in my hand.
A tennis racket in Venus William’s hands
is a championship winning.
It depends whose hands it’s in.

As YOU see now it depends whose hands it’s in
So put YOUR efforts, concerns and dreams
 to facilitate  learning at its best as a  guide
for the child’s future is now in your hands
It depends on whose hands it’s in