India gears up to celebrate Teachers’ Day amidst no classes in schools and colleges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps, there would be online celebrations to thank and show respect to the teaching community. The vital role of teachers do not diminish even during epidemics. The birthday of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan inspires millions of teachers to imitate him as a leader, diplomat, scholar and teacher.
Listening to understand
While students have to listen, see and imitate a teacher in a particular class, a teacher has to listen, see and understand multiple students. A listening teacher always understands the emotional, mental, physical and intellectual conditions of pupils. A listening teacher learns not just from literal listening. She or he can listen, observe and perceive from the mannerisms and body language of students. Usually, the poor students are shy and less confident. Students from broken families are timid and reserved. When a teacher understands students, she or he learns the complex realities of life. When a teacher listens, understanding happens. When understanding takes place, a teacher ceases to judge. She or he will move from ignorance to sympathy, from sympathy to empathy and establish personal contact with students. This contact is missing during the online mode of the teaching-learning procedure. Many students cherish the personal relationships they have with their teachers. This kind of interrelationship affects students’ overall growth – helping them build up respect, interpersonal relationships and develop humane qualities for life. A teacher knowingly or unknowingly influences countless students.
Apart from other motivating elements, teachers are the most powerful motivators for students. Teachers are connectors of the past and present. They link the books and students. They interpret and explain the contents of books, arts and artefacts to the pupils. Teachers translate basic concepts into actual practice and generate interest for further research (McCarthy & McCabe, 1987). This process establishes their indispensable role in society and evokes admiration and respect from the learning community. “Connection to the students’ world and cooperative learning methods has a positive effect on students’ motivation, while process‐oriented instruction by the teacher has a negative effect on motivational behaviour and motivational factors of students” (Thoonen et al., 2010). Teachers’ empathy for students will reduce stress and motivate them to concentrate on their academic duties. To be powerful motivators, teachers update themselves and reinvent their pedagogies for relevance to their audience.
In the cooperative learning scenario, teachers can also learn from students just as students learn from each other. Collaborative learning had received a lot of attention and praise – especially since the 1990s when Johnson and Johnson outlined the five essential elements that allowed successful small-group learning: (1) Positive interdependence: Students feel responsible for their own and the group’s effort. (2) Face-to-face interaction: Students encourage and support one another; the environment encourages discussion and eye contact. (3) Individual and group accountability: Each student is responsible for doing their part; the group is accountable for meeting its goal. (4) Social Skills: Group members gain direct instruction in the interpersonal, social, and collaborative skills needed to work with others. (5) Group processing: Group members analyze their own and the group’s ability to work together (Lewis, 2019). Teachers have to specify the type of work each student must perform to avoid the danger of some students remaining indifferent in the collaborative learning process.
If students remember your service even after years of departure, you have been a boon to students. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said about Dr Radhakrishnan: “He has served his country in many capacities. But above all, he is a great teacher from whom all of us have learnt much and will continue to learn. It is India’s peculiar privilege to have a great philosopher, a great educationist and a great humanist as her President. That in itself shows the kind of men we honour and respect.” If you have been a listening teacher, you will continue to experience your past students wishing you and remembering you.