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5 teachers choose to go beyond the curriculum and the four walls of the classroom to meet the emotional needs of children. They believe the only way to reach the mind of students is through their heart.
It isn’t easy to be a teacher, we know. There are numerous roles you play in your personal life before you enter a classroom, every day. It is the same curriculum, year after year. The routine can be unnerving. Then you have to play that role within the boundaries, structures and systems of the school. We understand your suffocation, frustration, boredom, need for freedom, want for recognition.
But we also know your powers. The day you smile at your class, their day is filled with rainbows. You pat a student’s back and he begins to feel worthy. When you look into the eyes of your student and say ‘You can’, she responds with ‘Yes I can’. If you say ‘It is okay to make mistakes’, that child in the corner stops worrying and starts thinking out of the box. One rude word, a scolding, demeaning or brushing the child aside, and it can shatter their self-esteem. That’s your power, your magic.
Under the pressure of deadlines where the only yardstick you are being measured against is the results you produce, how do you make room as a teacher for the emotional needs of children? Here are 5 teachers, all from schools in the NCR, and I am sure there are many like them, who believe that being there for students emotionally takes care of a lot, and can make all the difference.
Grades 9th-12th, History & Theory of Knowledge(IBDP) , Global Perspectives & Development Studies Educator(IGCSE), Heritage Xperiential School
“Am I making an impact in the child’s life?”
Image source: Ananya Raha
This is the question against which I assess myself. When a session begins, I invest the initial classes in just knowing the children. I observe their patterns, struggles and tensions, and one by one I address them. Instead of labelling or judging students, I get to the root cause. I make them question their pre-conceived notions, and certain behaviour. Once this space of communication is built, that’s when I pick up lessons.
I have never been bogged down by curriculum. Syllabus catches up speed when the class feels connected with the teacher and the subject. Students feel motivated to perform.
I come from a school in Calcutta that followed the philosophy of Tagore which is all about liberating the children through education. My decision to be an educator was made then and there. And choice of specialisation also came naturally because of the way the political science teacher nurtured us and opened a whole new world for us. When students come to me and express their wish to purse my subject, I feel like I am paying back my teachers.
Between the periods, in breaks, I spend my spare time talking to students. When they meet me in the corridor and walk past saying just ‘Hi’, I know I have to invest more. The day they go beyond the formal hello and stop to chat, I breathe a sigh relief. On a day when the class is looking gloomy; there is no way I am going to begin teaching till we don’t interact and understand each other to bring the energy back.
In any case, I believe teaching and learning goes far beyond than just everyday classroom transaction of syllabus. My job is to equip children with thinking and research tools and plant curiosity in their mind. I show them videos, movies, recommend books, organise quizzes. They are sharp enough, sharper than me, to understand the topic in question.
There is a whole world waiting for them after the class and after school. And I’ve got to prepare them for that.
Grades 7th, 8th& 9th, Science
“I cannot survive if I am not connected to my students!”
Image source: Gunjan Choudhary
The day I see a child disturbed in my class, their eyes follow me home. The question “what is the matter and how can I help?” doesn’t leave me.
There are times I enter the class and I see the energy low. I tell kids to go wash their face and come back, or go take a walk in the garden, and I take the whole class outside. No point in teaching if the mind is elsewhere. When the mind is trapped in an emotional issue one cannot focus on experiments or numbers. My children discuss everything with me. May it be tension at home between the parents, performance pressure, crushes, they have the space to talk to me.
With this kind of relationship, when the occasion demands I can tell them ‘Let’s focus on the topic. We have a deadline.” And they all sit up with attention, work hard to learn, finish notes, and submit projects. In my entire teaching career, I have never felt the need to complain to a parent. Talking and listening to the child resolves everything.
The day I don’t feel calm, I talk to my students. Just listening to them helps. Or I start the class with a story or a game. Always works. It would be wrong to say I do this for them; this is what keeps me sane and joyful.
Grade 3, Pathways World School
“I see my son in every child!”
Image source: Supriyaa Narula
I wanted my son to look forward to school, to enjoy the process of learning and not grow up the way we did under the pressure of parents and teachers. So when I got the opportunity to be a teacher, I saw my own child in each one of my students. They spend more than five hours with me and I want them to go back home feeling happy and fulfilled.
The day begins with circle time where I ask children different questions on different days. Like “share one thing you are thankful for”, “one thing that is bothering you”, “have you ever said a mean thing to any child”, and picking cues from the sharing, I address their state of mind. Academics will be taken care of, all children will eventually learn alphabets, numbers, and complicated equations, but what will make them stand apart is their socio-emotional growth.
It’s not that I don’t have difficult days. I do scream at times but the very next moment I make up for it.
The other thing I do is ‘model’ behaviour. If a child is speaking out of turn, I start doing that myself. The whole class begins to notice how speaking out of turn can disrupt the class.
We also have ‘agreements’ in class. Together we create a list of norms we shall follow and also set consequences if we don’t. A consequence could be taking away P.E period or playtime. Thankfully I have never felt the need to resort to the last consequence which is shooting an email to the parents. Of course there are smiley stickers they get as appreciation. An emotional connect brings about self discipline in my students. They take on the onus to be a good class. Exchanging hugs is also one of the agreements of the class.
I hate silence in my class. Silence means my children are not thinking and responding.
Psychology, 11th& 12th, Bal Bharti School
“What is the point of scoring marks if your education can’t make you a better person!”
Image source: Shweta Khurana
My whole purpose is to make my students reflect on their behaviour and to apply what they are learning. I tell them if you can go back and add value to yourself as a person, to your family, as a friend and as someone who is part of a nation, then your education is happening in the true sense.
None of my lesson plans go like planned. It is driven by the students. Let’s say a couple of kids can dance well. They put up a dance and we as the audience observe symptoms of anxiety and the spectrum of emotions being expressed. We follow up with a discussion and build a connection to a theory. No point talking about theories if you cannot relate them to your own life.
I keep on observing both the quiet and the enthusiastic students. The bright ones might be reeling under performance pressure and the quiet ones might be having low self esteem. And there could be a plethora of struggles – drugs, depression, sexual abuse. I have initiated a buddy system. All kids have a buddy to support each other. One may be academically weak and other emotionally strong. It is a symbiotic relationship. I prepare a schedule and follow up how things are moving with each one of them.
On a bad day, I tell them I may not be able to deliver 100% as I am disturbed. As the period goes on they would crack a joke to lighten my mood or do a pep talk. Some also offer to lead a lesson and I let them. Within a few minutes I see myself absolutely rejuvenated. Somewhere, it conveys to students that we all go through ups and downs and it is okay to talk it out.
It isn’t easy. This time I have a class of sixty two kids. But I won’t have it any other way. This is the conclusion and decision I have drawn in fifteen years of my work with children.
I cannot forget that day when I invited this student of mine into my room. This girl had been scoring in one digit. I kept nudging her with assignments, motivating her but nothing had worked. At the end of a two hour conversation she broke down to tell me how she was being rejected by the class because of her complexion. I had a discussion to question stereotypes and break prejudices in the class, took some of my colleagues into confidence, and with time when she saw she was being accepted she began to open up. A smile beamed across her face and her score began to rise. It was in the class assembly, when she performed a song, we discovered what a talented singer she was. That day I found a note on my desk saying ‘Thank you for making my life’.
Social Science and Political Science, Grades 7th, 10thand 11th, Kunskapsskolan School
“Curriculum is just a tool, a broad guideline. The end objective is much bigger!”
Image source: Pallavi Jaggi
Children are bubbling with energy. If you cut them short, you end their expression. So I strike a deal with my students that we will give each other a chance to speak and we both will listen to each other.
I meet every student for fifteen minutes every week for a conversation. Discussion can be around anything and often reveals a lot. There was this child who kept fiddling in the class, was only physically present and mentally absent. It took time but he finally shared how there was no one to take care of him at home and there was unrest because of frequent fights between the parents. I sat down with him to draw a schedule he could follow. After two months the child had taken on the responsibility of his academic growth and he had the space with me to share whenever he felt disturbed.
I don’t undermine academic results. It is a symptom that child is struggling somewhere. At the same time to expect every child to be good at each subject is unreasonable. Each child comes with his/her strengths and weaknesses. I make different assignments for different kids; depending on their area of interest and potential. I allow them to set goals as per their assessment of themselves. Of course I am there to observe, guide and support.
Curriculum is just a means to help the child find him/herself and not the end. I am glad I don’t allow myself to lose my goal and have never let a child feel lost.
With teachers like these, teaching seems to be a journey of helping children find their SELF and their sense of SELF WORTH. And on the way, create your own SELF-GROWTH. We pray may the teachers stay connected with the power within and may they keep creating magic. We need you, we love you and we truly respect each one of you.
Header image is a still from the movie Hichki
Manmeet is a writer by passion and a facilitator by choice. She works primarily in
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