Responding to @probablytrippy

A while ago I read a blogpost by @probablytrippy. It did instigate a few thoughts but I wasn't teaching at that time, so I refrained from replying. Now that I am teaching a few different groups of students, I feel I am in a position to answer his questions.


- What did you LOVE about Learning?

Learning was interesting. It was stories. It was facts. It was dull. It was experiments.

Retrospectively I could state a few good things about learning in school. But to be honest, I understood more about learning while I was in college. Learning made me think. Learning made me ask why. Learning told me not to take a no for an answer, in a sane scenario. Learning explained it to me why equating most things in life is plausible. Learning was the best example of challenging assumptions.

That is exactly why I love learning.


-  What did you HATE about studying?

I believe there are parts to my hatred towards studying - 1. Teachers dictating notes in the class, 2. Answering according to the expectations of the examiners in an examination.

In certain scenarios point 1 could be a valid error as result of lapses in B.Ed. colleges/ courses. It is possible, that these courses are not allowing future teachers to be confident about themselves. They are not telling them that 'you as a student, are a good one'. I believe I would accept a few teachers dictating notes in the class. But under no circumstances I can accept the fact that I need to write answers that will please someone. At any given point of time, I want to answer a question based on my understanding & not based on understanding of someone else (e.g. study guides). It can be argued that for examinations wherein number of candidates is in few lakhs, how would it be possible? Let me put it this way; I don't want to see a question like this - Do you approve of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's idea of romanticism? | That's a tricky & rather subjective question to answer. What I want to see is this - If a person is spitting on the road, why must you stop him? 

This process of studying is aimed at creating haphazard geeks. And worst part is we don't need a process to create geeks. Geeks are created no matter what you do. The process of studying MUST facilitate an efficient process of creating better citizens i.e. citizens at time interval t+1 should be better than those at time interval t.


- Any anecdotes when you taught something well, or something was taught to you well?

I believe I don't have a strong memory of the first. I am trying to get there. But there are plenty of examples of latter. I shall state one of them.

In class 6th (if I am not wrong), we were learning about paddy fields as a part of the geography class. One day we were told that we are going to a paddy field. It was raining that day. After a brief chat with people over there, we were given a brief demonstration of planting rice seedlings. Next one hour was actively spent in that paddy field. Sore back, muddy feet, wet clothes and some area of a paddy field covered. The exercise was complete. From that day onwards I never underestimated a textbook line that read "it is a laborious task to work in paddy fields."


- How do YOU study? How do you teach?

If I remember correctly this is what I did - spent 1 hour reading a certain number of pages & then spent at least 2 hours thinking about them. Many a times I tried reading extra material, which could be called as raw cross referencing.

I do spend some time writing out some of the things, as it helps me remember them clearly. But if I do not think about what I have read, I cannot reproduce that content. So thinking & processing & thinking & expressing is my preferred way of studying.

When it comes to teaching I like to keep it simple. I like to avoid jargon in most cases. I keep it very simple & relate it to real life situations. I teach economics - visualisation is major hurdle in this case. So I have experimented a bit & it has worked out really well e.g. showcasing relevant films [ e.g. showcasing Chapli's Modern Times to visualise Great Depression ] or asking students to go and talk to vendors in local/ nearby markets. Latter has proved to be an optimal exercise. 
I had teachers who taught me theory & tools. Almost none of them told me how to relate it with the real world & they were purely drag. So I make it to the point to converse with my students. I feel I shouldn't just talk in the class but should also listen.


- What should we be teaching undergrad & postgrad students?

Irrespective of their subjects, undergrad students must learn about the importance of asking why. They must get introduced to the idea of scientific enquiry. The idea of higher education can result into something concrete if these undergrad students can learn about such an enquiry. And to be the master of it (postgrad), the students must learn how to employ these skills, ideas. Often I feel, a postgrad course is where one can bridge the gap between textbook & reality, for there is one.


- What things would you like to see changed?

 I want to see objectives of education clearly stated by the concerned authorities (read: schools, teachers, students). I hope to see 90% of the teachers to do their job i.e. teach. I hope to see 35% of those excel at teaching. And out of those, 5% should initiate that scientific enquiry. If teaching is to change & learning shall change. The vicious circle of poor education system can certainly be broken down by the teachers.