Some Musings on Teacher's Day
I am a Math teacher having an experience of more than thirty years. I have taught at various levels including undergraduates, pre-university and high school students. Today I can confidently say that I hold a class in a disciplined manner for at least forty five minutes.
After teaching (a+b) the whole square and trigonometry for the last twenty years, I resigned my job to accept the challenge of teaching children in a different environment. An open environment with a mixed age group was very exciting to me and so I started my journey with children at Vismaya Kalike.
Initially, I preferred to work with older children and I taught them various tricks and games that I had taught my own children. While showing some of the older children a few card tricks I kept getting disturbed by a boy named Raju. He used to keep taking the cards away from me and would run around constantly. When I talked to Raju I realised that he did not even know basic numbers despite being in class two. I was determined to work with Raju and I took it upon myself as a challenge to help him with Maths. After all with more than thirty years of experience this can’t be so challenging.
It struck me that since Raju was very interested in playing with cards, I could perhaps interest him in learning numbers as well using the cards. I made ten cards with the numbers one to ten and another ten cards with dots corresponding to the numbers. We started playing with them as we would with memory cards. Raju thoroughly enjoyed the cards. He could easily match the numbers with the dots and he learned counting in the process. He was very keen to play the game with me especially as he gradually started getting more points. He even began to play with his other friends. As he learned, I increased the difficulty and asked him to show the number to me with his fingers to earn a point and then later on to even write the number.
I was happy that Raju had learned 1, 2, 3, sight counting and writing with this approach. I was very proud and happy with myself. After sometime, a new learner Samra joined the center. Samra was similar to Raju and similarly had trouble with basic numbers. Having had much success with Raju, I was confident that I could work with Samra and I told the other facilitators that I would be happy to work with her. I started with the memory cards just as I had with Raju. However it did not hold interest to Samra. She just refused to learn it the way I was teaching her and ended up learning from some other facilitator.
I realised then that what works for one child can fail for a different child. And here I was proud of myself for teaching the same material to a class of thirty children year after year. There are many more incidents over the past year that reinforced my belief that each child is different and each child has unique interests. The onus is on the facilitator to understand the child and work with them accordingly. Today, as I reflect on my career, I wonder how many of my students understood what I was so very passionately teaching.