My relationships with my students and myself
Given the times we are living in currently and keeping in mind the context of the pandemic, the relationships between the students and the teachers has become even more pronounced.
The challenges faced by the teachers are multiple. The onus to maintain the social emotional well-being of students, to uphold the school culture, to ensure that the ideologies of leadership are executed, parents are satisfied and they remain enablers through the tough times, is a tough call on teachers.
What comes to mind when you talk of relationships? For me the one that stands out, above all, is the one that I share with my students. Painstakingly cruising through daily patterns, building a deep understanding, negotiating and navigating through different learning spaces continuously and developing a depth of emotions that are ALWAYS held very close to my heart. Given the times we are living in currently and keeping in mind the context of the pandemic the relationships between the students and the teachers becomes even more pronounced.
Role of a teacher…
The challenges faced by the teachers are multiple. The onus to maintain the social emotional well-being of students, to uphold the school culture, to ensure that the ideologies of leadership are executed, parents are satisfied and they remain enablers through the tough times, is a tough call on teachers. It must be highlighted and acknowledged that the role of a teacher has always been critical to upholding teaching and learning; of providing the emotional succorance, of enabling skills building to address issues like structural inequalities, racism, and colonial ways of being and acting over and above transacting the syllabus and curriculum as it were.
Aprajita Ralli is an educator for the past 26 years. She is currently a middle school coordinator & provides staff development training and support in technology integration, instructional design, and e-learning in K-12 and higher education classrooms. She has a Master of Arts in History, a Bachelors in Education, a teaching and leadership certificate in education in curriculum design & instruction and a vast experience in educational technology & e-learning. A Certified Educator and technology Integrationist and ambassador for Adobe, Seesaw, Wakelet, Flipgrid, a global educator for Penpals school ,Teach SDGs, she is often been called an Ed Tech Rockstar who has presented internationally, at state and national education conferences.
Examining the relationships between the teacher and the taught, brought my focus to the point that with the changing times newer trends will emerge which might redefine the role for the teacher and learner. While, we know that every student needs a champion to develop into self-motivated and be better prepared so that they reach their right potential. We cannot take away from the fact that the teacher will need to be good learners too in the current times. It is now no longer a space where the teacher has a stronghold as he/she used to; with the situation slowly and surely moving to a changing scenario. Maybe a hybrid learning space is what is heard of for the senior school students and teachers, maybe an extended online space which will demand for the teachers evolving and adapting to the changes. So, in the given situation, how will the teacher pupil relationship evolve or strengthen the learning environment? Because positive relationships will improve any school’s environment and that is the key focus area for all educators and learners.
Enhancing engagement with school life: A student needs a deep motivation to look forward to attending school regularly. I reinstated the relevance of this deep connection when two years back a new student had joined school and within the first month was very conspicuous because of his unexplained and unexcused absenteeism. As was the school rule, I called up the parents to find out what the matter was. To my chagrin, I was told the child was suffering from some ailment and had to undergo surgery. As a result, he was very low on self-esteem and didn’t want to come to school. I would call up the parent often and the student started coming to school off and on. On teacher’s day that year I decided to surprise the child. After detailed planning with the parents, I landed up at their place and the look on the face of the child was worth a memory! After an hour of chatting up with the family I left. That day and today, we have never heard any absentee issues for this child. Of course much more did go into this final outcome.“New focus areas for teachers…
The few focus areas I am going to be looking at are few, I will through my vast 26 years of teaching and learning experience share what worked well for me.
Improve academic achievement: As a student gets mental stability, one will find them focus more on their academic achievement. I have always believed my personal connections with my students have always enabled students and led to raise their intrinsic motivation to learn. If a student feels interested in their work, if they own what they are doing and they develop a love of learning it will benefit them for their entire lives; and not everything is always academic. But the non-academic relationship will definitely lead to academic progress; In my 26 years, I have built more relationships with my students than with my own teaching faculty. I have felt such deep connections with the students community that I have often been called “mama” instead of ma’am and that has been my high point in life. I have often observed that deep connection has motivated students to produce results they weren’t sure they could, or even push themselves to the levels they themselves didn’t expect they would.
Developing self-esteem: Academic success and prowess will lead a student to look at him/herself differently, push them further to scale greater heights and develop skills which will see them through life. The constant encouragement, the morning two minutes chats, the individual personalised attention even if it is for a couple of minutes. The idea that there is someone who they can rely on factors for the confidence a student experiences in life, academic and personal life. In the past so many years, if one thing I have learnt is that every child does matter and one encouraging look and one smile in the corridor go a long way in building classroom equations. Often we see students opt for subjects not only because they like the subject, but also because of the teacher who is teaching that. Over the
Personal connections with my students have always enabled students and led to raise their intrinsic motivation to learn. If a student feels interested in their work, if they own what they are doing and they develop a love of learning it will benefit them for their entire lives.
years I have had many students come and tell me “Ma’am the fact that I could tell you my problems, made me want to be in your class often.” My room became the haven for children to just come and lounge, I had floor cushions and carpets, reading corner and children parked themselves whenever they had free time. Senior students always stopped by for a chit chat… it bred such a beautiful harmonious community.
n Deeper learning and engagement taking initiative: I believe that each student must be pushed to explore their own inner most strengths and so they feel enabled to display their best. My firmness contributes to that. While, one cares for the students and demonstrates the softer side, it is also essential to have a strong hold as a mentor to the students. At the end of the day, they know that you care. If one is able to establish that through different ways and means, you have achieved your aim as a teacher. My students, who have passed out from school, even after several years, always come and share – “Sir S demonstrated a deep content knowledge but his classes were boring and we loved your sessions because you added that extra ‘story’. ” “You always knew how to extract work out of us “ “We couldn’t ever mess with you ma’am “
I have learnt one thing, amongst others in my teaching experience and that is “never compromise on your expectations from the children.” They will set themselves to outdo your expectations but if you lower that, you fail them. My students are known to look at the world and society from their own perspective as not through the lenses I set for them. They take up projects away from the school, beyond the confines of the school. They would spread awareness about the “clean Yamuna” drive, they would collect funds for the Rohingya community through online portals, they would do street plays for keeping metro clean, raise their voice to propagate the RTI Act, make women’s rights groups, talk about Animal shelter protection to their communities, collect food for the poor, paint the walls of the school for the hearing impaired, take classes for the underprivileged children, and the list goes on. All this I was able to push the children to do, owing to their ownership of the school culture, some projects stemming organically from the unit I would teach, while others were their community service initiatives. The whole idea was to have these students actualize their true potential, understand that they belong to a bigger world to which they must contribute to.
On a concluding note…
These past twenty six years, have been a rewarding time for me. Not only have the students benefited from our relationship and interaction, I have grown personally as a person. I have learnt so much from my students and gained strength in my content knowledge, developing patience and resilience. I find this symbiotic relation as rewarding as being a mother to my own daughter. And I end with what I recently read somewhere “By making space for different knowledges and alternative ways of being and acting in learning, opportunity is created to explore different traditions of knowledge emerging from distinct sites of practice, such as from within
A lot of research and evidence-based assessment practices need to be put in place to support the online learners to be more sensitive to their learning curve and consequent needs that arise.
communities where students live and learn, and from various disciplines within school settings. Partnership creates the space to recognise and include knowledge generated outside the academic institution, allowing students and other participants to appreciate the contested nature of knowledge. Partnership also enables a different pedagogical model to emerge, one that seeks to upend the traditional power dynamics such as operate in didactic lectures. This is particularly important, as consideration is given to including and making space for Indigenous knowledge systems, anti-racist, and decolonized curricula.”