Time to Relook

“I don’t want to be a teacher anymore, I have quit and I need a job,” this is what a friend told me almost 10 years ago when I met her in Mumbai. She was a teacher in a high school, I always knew her as a passionate teacher who loved her job and the time she spent with her students.

Something went wrong. The school she worked in, was one of the reputed schools and had a very distinguished educator as their Principal. The Principal was a disciplinarian and she expected the best from all her teachers.
The school decided to introduce technology and the first thing that was brought on, were the CC cameras. The management was so fascinated by the new gadget that they decided to introduce it everywhere including the staff room. The Principal now had a view of what was going on in the staff room and she could not appreciate the fact that the teachers were having fun and fooling around in the staff room as it was their domain. Every now and then, teachers were called to the Principal’s office to be reprimanded for their behaviour in the staff room. Within a month or so, the Principal sent out a circular that outlined the desired behaviour of teachers in the staff room. My friend decided to quit the day she read this circular.

At the other end of the spectrum, I have heard some horror stories of companies that sold digital learning content and interactive smart boards to schools. These companies with all their entrepreneurial ambitions, wanted to change the way the children were educated and how technology was introduced in classrooms. The management was convinced, the parents were excited and the children loved the concept. The end result though, is that technology in classrooms across most parts of India is a relative failure and has not brought about the change that it was supposed to, initially. What is the reason? The biggest reason is, “The Teacher killed the smart class,” this is what a friend of mine had exclaimed. The teachers did not want to change, did not want to learn or keep learning and they themselves, were the biggest reason why most schools resorted to watching videos and films on their smartboards!

If we analyze these incidents closely, several important lessons emerge. Many new-age startups are coming up with fancy products and services that seem relevant and exciting. Managements and Principals with all good intentions introduce them, however, their effectiveness lies in how well we bring all stake holders into confidence, especially teachers and parents. Children adapt to changes very easily as they are constantly changing themselves.
Systems and processes that are set up in schools should have one focus: To make the lives of stakeholders better/simpler. Rules must be introduced as a pilot to test them before making them mandatory. As we approach another academic year end it may be a good time to relook and evolve the systems and processes in schools and the effectiveness of technology.

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