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Why do I teach?

August 11, 2020

Teaching has come naturally to me. Though the exact moment when I started teaching does not come to my mind, it was around class 8th that I started enjoying my time with friends learning in study groups. The group which was initially formed as hangouts post-school hours, soon became one of the most enjoyable times of my life. We used to discuss everything that the ICSE curriculum had to offer. The downside to these learning sessions was that my friends who had limited attention during school hours decreased it further. I, on the other hand, started paying more attention in class so that I did not miss anything that needed explanation during our sessions. Those sessions are still etched in my memory as if it was yesterday I was sitting in that tiny room surrounded by my 7-8 friends crouched together focussing on the textbook. The content never spilled beyond the curriculum as our primary focus was getting through the school exams but the ICSE provided us sufficient width and depth to broaden our perspective.

I seldom question myself, what was so special in that space which made learning fun?

Why do I teach?

The answer to the above two questions is somewhat intertwined. After finishing high school, I started my engineering studies. The first two semesters gave me the realization that my knowledge and my grades of any subject were highly dependent on that special space I talked about in the first question. A space that had a non-authoritative but discipline teacher, having a humane side who actually cared about our education. A teacher who, like a magician is passionate about the stuff he discusses and infects us with his/her enthusiasm. Unfortunately, very few lectures in the college created such a space. I can’t say whether it was the strict course structure and the standardized pedagogy which restricted most of the teachers or just the individual teacher’s resistance to change. It soon dawned to me that it will be difficult for me to create the space (the one I had throughout high school) within my college curriculum. I ventured outside the campus and started teaching at a private coaching institute preparing high school students for the IIT JEE examination. The small scale of the institute meant that despite being a commercial enterprise, it provided its teachers enough autonomy to administer the classes. It was the three years of teaching at this institute that made me realize why do I teach?

1. I teach to forge new bonds of friendships with my students. The first thing to do with any group I learn is to create an environment of trust where we are able to freely speak our minds. I have a firm belief that space devoid of mutual trust and care cannot nurture learning.

2. I teach to quench my curiosity, to explore new experiences with people (friends, students), to create a space where every session looks like a journey we embark upon.

3. I teach to admire the satisfying looks on our faces when we comprehend something which seemed complex minutes ago and took ages to understand.

4. I teach to understand how our mind creates knowledge, how it challenges, inspires us to seek new ideas.

5. I teach because it seems novel to me. The novelty many times does not come from the content which is actually repetitive if you spend a long time teaching the same program. The novelty comes from the diversity of students and the experimentation in pedagogy.

6. I teach because I want to prove it wrong that the success of any teaching-learning space is solely dependent on the performance of students. Such a system measures the academic outcome of a few highly attentive, well-resourced fast learners and ignores the majority. The philosophy that education is like a tree with a finite number of fruits and it is solely dependent on the performance of an individual student to extract a large share of it seems absurd to me. I have a firm belief that every individual in that room has their own tree to tend to. It depends on them and the enabling environment to grow the tree to a size they wish. The enabling environment includes everyone within that space (teachers, students) responsible to create learning.

I believe many of us keep searching for a space in our life where we are not judged on the quantum of our education, where we receive respect and care for who we are, where we have a diverse group to learn from, and learn with.

Ashish Ranjan, Assistant Professor, Unitedworld School of Business (UWSB)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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