M’Choackumchild, a teacher in Dickens’ novel “Hard Times”, is criticized for ‘choking’ his students with facts. When we take a hard look at the education scenario in Nagaland, do any of us often wonder if there is any similarity with the expectations of this fictional character from a Victorian Era novel. Are we emphasizing too much on memorization and echoing facts to ace the examinations, while destroying the creative and analytical side of our students?
An Ode to Teachers
It is one of the greatest misfortunes of our society that where the meaningful significance of life is to be nurtured, there we find the cultivation of such to occur in the most uninspiring vacuous milieu. As a teacher, I find the educational environment of our state to be lackluster and devoid of any purpose, both for the learners and teachers. Numerous teachers and students wander aimlessly with no purpose to what they do and what they learn. Both ENDURE their respective duties: teacher to regurgitate the received information from the books, and for students to memorize and regurgitate the regurgitated materials. I say “ENDURE” because to endure is to TOIL and SUBMIT to circumstances, it is defeatist by nature. Besides, most teachers and students have, in most cases, unduly consigned themselves to circumstances. They have submitted not because they are fatalists, but because they see no meaningful purpose to what they do and learn. Certainly, I do not mean all teachers and students are as such, but most are. In such conditions, the whole purpose of education goes astray. This is detrimental to the well-being of a society, whether we admit it or not.
This is especially true with respect to teachers. Teachers are supposed to nurture and guide students realize their potential and creative abilities—whatever they may be. These require teachers to find purpose in what they do. Yet, when most teachers just TOIL away and ENDURE aimlessly, it evinces that they do not see teaching as something honorable; rather they see it as a JOB demanding them to simply endure the inconvenience that comes with the ‘job.’ Herein lies one of the problems: the problem is that most teachers see teaching as a JOB, but teaching is not a ‘job’ or a ‘profession,’ rather it is a CALLING, something innate. “Calling” involves passion and loving what one does, and teachers not only have to be passionate but also love what they do. Otherwise, how else is it possible to ignite students’ imagination and excite their spirits, which are essential to learning? Since teaching is ultimately intimate and personal, teachers must thus be able to stimulate and provoke students’ imaginations, thereby awakening their sense of self-awareness. This, I admit, is not enough to mend the educational problems; however, at the least, it does help students circumvent their disenchantment with the system, and why wouldn’t they feel disillusioned, given Nagaland University’s obsolete syllabi, with teachers’ emphasizing memorization rather than understanding or reasoning. Hence, instead of magnifying their disenchantment, teachers can facilitate a milieu of curiosity and wonderment. Thus, igniting an environment of learning at the most profound level, i.e. helping students’ find purposeful meaning in what they do and learn.
It is essential to note that teaching is about guiding students to think critically so that they realize their fullest potential. After all, for Aristotle, each realizing his/her fullest potential, which is, becoming what each is meant to become, evinces the profoundest expression of human life. Furthermore, in teaching, one implants on students a sense of wonderment that ignites their passion and innate creative abilities. Indeed, for Socrates, “knowledge begins in wonder.” In this way, students gain not only a profound understanding of the worldly realities but also learn how to live a meaningful life. Moreover, teaching is about cultivating each student’s unique talents and abilities, at the heart of which lies self-transformation, self-growth, self-awareness, and self-knowledge.
Ultimately, teaching, I believe, is about education of the whole person, from abstract intellectual ideas to the practical realities of everyday life. Raphael, the great renaissance painter, in one of his frescos, School of Athens, shows us the paragon of education. At the center of the fresco, we see Plato and Aristotle, the former points toward the heavens, toward the world of abstract ideas and intellectual ruminations, while the latter points toward the viewer, toward the everyday human world. This, I believe, is the essence of teaching. Teaching is educating students not only about intellectually abstract ideas but also about practical realities of everyday life; thereby the purpose of education is actualized: understanding of self.
Of course I do not mean in this monologue teachers are the sole problem and if they are somehow rectified then maladies would be resolved. Rather, what I want to convey is teachers are A PART of the problem and thus also A PART of the solution. We can start by ameliorating, at the very least, one of the problematic variables. Indeed, to mend our society’s educational problems require the rectification of numerous societal factors contributing to it. However, this does not mean teachers ought to wait for all the contributing variables to be amended before they play their part. It requires initiative and ingenuity on the part of the teachers to help students realize their entelechy, no matter the vacuity of the present educational environment.
I conclude by maintaining that throughout this philosophical soliloquy, the whole purpose was to elucidate the importance of teachers in playing a significant and meaningful role in students’ lives. It is an ode for teachers, though in a critical sense, to convey how essential they are for the betterment of our society. And whether I am right or wrong to voice this concern is a moot point. Ultimately, I leave it to the readers to decide on their own as to what should be done to liberate ourselves of the maladies afflicting our state’s educational system.
Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognized Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Dr. Salikyu Sangtam, Nivibo Yiki, and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.