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  • Raghav Sand

Teachers: Then, Now and Forever

Teachers influence our lives in more ways than anyone of us can ever comprehend. Apart from imparting knowledge on their specialized subject, they effortlessly become our mentors. Teachers along with parents are our friend, philosopher and guide. We need to have a holistic approach towards the well-being of teachers. A few interim measures, here and there, will not be able to pacify the genuine concerns of a profession that creates all other professions.

There is no one singular reason why people take up the profession of teaching. For some it is a passion and pre-decided vocation, while others gravitate towards it as their plan ‘B’ or ‘Z’. Either way, once a person decides to become an educator, the intensity and commitment is uniform for one and all. Like any other profession, teachers also get better with time.

The world operates on the basic principle of give and take. I know, how some of you may feel about seeing education through the prism of commercialization. Hear me out before labelling me as ungrateful or disrespectful. We should no longer overlook the legitimate demands of teachers by sugar-coating our response with phrases like, ‘teachers are the architects of tomorrow’ and ‘teaching is a noble profession’. By invoking emotional feelings, the society is trying to hold back reforms in the field of teaching.

Keeping Up With the Times

Corporates, media and entertainment houses or sports franchises pay their employees well and attract top talent. The debate around education reform seems to revolve around how we should recalibrate theoretical and practical knowledge and what should be taught in our history classes. By systematically overlooking the reform needed in the field of teacher training and compensation, we are running the race backwards. Teachers don’t want our pity. All they need is fair compensation and recognition for their service. Government, private sector or public-private partnership can make it happen. Necessary resources are available for dispersal; its high time we get our intent and action in sync.

It is rare to find people who are not grateful to medical professionals, military personnel and teachers. In short, these are the saviours, protectors and mentors, respectively. No nation or society can ever quantify and justify the contribution of selfless service of countless citizens, and teachers are one among many nation builders.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of us in different ways. Work from home became the new normal for working professionals. School and college going children were not too far from working parents. And, who was taking their classes virtually? Aha! It was none other than the same teachers from school. Not all the teachers tasked with conducting virtual classes were accustomed with smartphone and software like Zoom or other video chatting service that allows multiple concurrent participants. Left with no choice but to embrace the technology, teachers learned skills which they might have otherwise felt as non-essential.

Superheroes Hidden in Plain Sight

When lockdown or lockdown-like restrictions consumed up an entire academic year (2020-21), there were whispers about the impact on students’ language, arithmetic, social and athletic skills. Undoubtedly, these are genuine concerns, whether you are a parent or policy maker. Hopefully, schools in India may reopen in September.

Again, in all this talk, it is difficult to find any mention of teachers. Should they have been treated as frontline or essential workers? I sincerely hope, people in the central and state education ministries have a roadmap for starting regular classes. Teachers have been managing students in virtual classes for almost eighteen months now. On top of that, they are conducting exams and are also evaluating their wards.

If all that teachers have been doing during the Covid-19 pandemic doesn’t qualify as superhuman, nothing else should either. We should not become a society which glorifies one set of professionals and take others, equally if not more important ones, for granted. Teachers, both voluntarily and in compliance with directives, have kept in touch with students after face-to-face classes were suspended in March last year. A nation looking to rebuild after the disruption caused from the pandemic should actively involve teachers in preparation and execution of any action plan.

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