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13 Apr 2024, Edition - 3196, Saturday

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Columns

Unique woman educator: It’s all about passion

Santosh Avvannavar

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The 2023 International Women’s Day theme is “Digital ALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.”

The world is desperately in need of good and passionate teachers who want to make a difference, and this is only possible if people make teaching one of the top jobs to look out for. A teacher holds great power and responsibilities; a teacher is shaping the world’s, future, one child and one class at a time.

In an exclusive interview, Mrs. Ruman Akbar, who is an educationist and principal of Sofia Public School in Bengaluru, discusses an array of topics.

What led you to be a teacher or get into education?

Children’s perspectives of the world, so fresh, have always fascinated me. Their unconditional love, innocence, and unbiased choices are something for adults to remind themselves that we have walked the same path. Children learn easily, forgive quickly, and laugh for no reason; unfortunately, these qualities fade with time. As I grew and became aware of challenges in education, I made an informed decision to make the world a better place.

As children, we are told one must study, study really hard, compete with others, get a degree, find a job, become successful and rich, save, grow richer than friends or others, save money, keep going, and everyone is doing something similar. I did follow such a path, but somehow, I broke out of this cycle and changed the course of my life to lead a happier life.

There was a lot to unlearn, explore, and understand the fundamental problems our country faces with illiteracy. In my opinion, it is one of the greatest social evils and the root cause of unrest and disharmony. When I look at nature, which is perfectly balanced, I see, no two flowers look or smell the same. Aren’t our children just as unique as those flowers? Humankind understands this, yet we try fitting everyone into one shoe.

We have chosen to be divided on gender, age, color, caste, and abilities and label everything and everyone. Several such reasons – love for children, desire to learn more, and desire to provide quality education – have led me into education.

What does “passionate teachers” mean?

“Passion” is my most favourite word in the dictionary. It’s an asset, your companion, that does not rest and is always thinking of uplifting. Unlike goals or targets, passion only grows. It takes you places that you were unsure of or afraid of. For schools, teachers are the strongest driving force. Schools cannot exist without teachers.

A passionate teacher serves as a facilitator, narrator, counselor, coach, friend, parent figure, and so much more to a child. A teacher is literally a mold through which a child’s personality takes shape. A teacher holds great power and great responsibilities; a teacher is shaping the world’s, future one child and one class at a time. A child should have a fond memory or a lasting impact from a good teacher. This is what I am talking about; a teacher’s impact on a child can go a long way.

Thus, it is essential to me that teachers understand this power and are passionate about their role; otherwise, there could be imbalances. Passionate teachers can nurture passionate children. It is not just illiteracy, but also unemployment will cause imbalance in our society. Even after being educated, some are struggling to get a job, which could also be because they lack passion.

Kindling aspirations with the right care and directions, children will be able to find meaning and purpose in life. As every child is capable of something, it only takes one disinterested teacher to bring down the aspirations of a child without even realising it. The problem in schools is not about curriculum, board, books, or careers, but a lack of efficient, powerful, and passionate teachers who want to make a difference.

What would happen to children, the nation, and the community because of passionate teachers?

Helping children discover their potential would give them the confidence to venture out and explore further. This would help society grow together and create a progressive nation. It would bring in more employment and the ability to support and uplift others. This also entails appreciating one’s individuality rather than following the herd mentality, which results in more joy and less misery.

This responsibility rests on teachers’ shoulders; we do not just need doctors, engineers, nurses, journalists, or lawyers; we need good doctors, good engineers, dedicated nurses, passionate journalists, ethical lawyers, and more.

With fast-changing technology, we need more creators. The world has undergone so much change in less than three decades that it has not seen in the previous century. This is an indicator to teach topics about the future, create change-makers, kindle fire, and make our nation strong and great!

If we fail, which I hope we do not, we will produce dull, mediocre adults who will continue that cycle for their children.

As the founder and principal of Sofia Public School, what has been your experience with hiring teachers?

I knew nothing about running a school when I started one. Quotes such as Nelson Mandela’s “Education is the single most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” and Malala Yousufzai’s “One pen, one book, one teacher, one child can change the world” were inspirational. However, because of my experience, I knew a good team would make the dream work. The recruitment of teachers was very different from that of IT recruitment firms. Sofia Public School is located in North Bangalore, which is a relatively new area, so it was built at a time when the city was expanding and new families were naturally moving in. Many applicants were recent graduates, newlyweds, or young mothers. Some applicants looked at teaching as a last resort.

It was discouraging to learn about applicants who believed that teaching was convenient or acceptable to their in-laws. Although I am in awe of several women who are teachers, their lack of passion is something that is discouraging. However, I know that women are excellent multitaskers, caring, loving, motherly, and safe, all of which qualities a good teacher must have.

Therefore, the only challenge was to inspire these young and new teachers about their job, the role they play, the power they have, and the potential they can unleash if they are ready to realise it. The teaching profession should be looked at as that of a sportsperson. A sportsperson has a coach and is guided and looked after by the coach until he or she enters the field of the sport they are playing. Similarly, every new teacher needs that scaffolding from an experienced teacher who can act as a coach and guide them, train them, inspire them, and then let them do their magic in the field, which is the classroom.

I have tried my best to be a good teacher, a coach, a mentor to all my teachers, and a mostly good student to date and will continue to be so. Today, times have changed, and with the CBSE board in school, only teachers with a B.Ed. can apply. Unfortunately, I have a problem with the quality of education in the Bachelor of Education programme, so the scrutiny has increased. Even after studying for five years, every good school must provide continuous professional development by training the teachers and motivating them time and again, as they have busy lives and full-fledged families to take care of. Every day is a challenge, and passion can take a back seat. So, it is a daily duty of a good school or a good leader to inspire and take good care of their teachers.

The world is desperately in need of good and passionate teachers who want to make a difference, and this is only possible if people make teaching one of the top jobs to look out for.

Santosh Avvannavar, Education Journalist QtSTEAM & Mentor QtPi Robotics

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