Issues Vol. 168‎ > ‎

Vol. 168 No. 35 - September 02 - September 08, 2017

01 Cover

posted Aug 31, 2017, 11:04 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 1, 2017, 8:15 AM ]


03 Index

posted Aug 31, 2017, 11:03 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 31, 2017, 11:04 AM ]


04 Engagements

posted Aug 31, 2017, 11:02 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 31, 2017, 11:02 AM ]


05 Editorial - Mother Teresa, the Educator

posted Aug 31, 2017, 10:54 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 1, 2017, 8:16 AM ]

As we remember our beloved Mother Teresa on her 20th death anniversary, which coincides with Teacher's Day, it would be appropriate to recall her role as a model teacher. She began her religious training in Dublin, and later came to India to continue her formation. After making her vows as a religious sister, she was assigned to teach at a girl's high school in Bengal. She later went on to become the Principal. She was a loved teacher and skillfully combined spiritual growth with intellectual development.

Her exemplary life indicates that despite being enclosed within a safe and secure academic environment in the convent school, she was open and attentive to the happenings outside the walls. This is perhaps one of the important lessons she teaches us. Teachers and students can grow accustomed to thinking that a major part of education happens within the walls of the classroom. It is when textbooks take precedence over life that education ceases, and brainwashing begins. It is very important for teachers and students alike to always remain open and sensitive to the happenings in their surroundings. Education happens to a fuller extent, when what is learnt in the classroom is applied to regular life.

In principle, both teacher and student may learn of the health hazards of littering and uncleanliness, but in practice, the very same teacher and student may continue to dispose garbage and waste in open spaces or on the streets, contributing to pollution. This disparity between theory and practice clearly depicts the failure of education. It is important to ask whether education broadens the horizons of the mind to face the challenges of reality, or is it simply a collection of information that must be memorised and reproduced in order to score the highest marks?

Mother Teresa had a profound respect for human life, even the unborn in the womb, and bequeathed that respect to her sisters - the Missionaries of Charity. In the 1971 war between East and West Pakistan, an estimated 200,000 women were raped. Some women committed suicide. Many wanted to abort their babies. Mother Teresa begged them to have their babies and give them to her, assuring them that, 'Her sisters will take care of them and provide these children with a good home'.

Mother Teresa is a shining example of a pro-lifer. Value for life is not expressed merely in a classroom situation; it is rather realised in a concrete circumstance. Mother Teresa expressed her pro-life opinion, concretely spelling it out in the urgent demanding situation of war. Her respect and love for life did not permit her to turn a blind eye to the impending genocide. Besides, her respect for life was not restricted to saving another's life. Her pro-life attitude continued in the daily routine of showing care and concern for the sick and aged as a normal practice of her congregation.

Mother Teresa is a shining example of vision, persistence and commitment. Despite having her life set before her, she was willing to respond to a need that she felt was not receiving sufficient attention, even though it meant losing her security. She dared to choose what is right over what is comfortable.

Once she had established herself and her followers, she was proactive in envisioning projects that could foster a better outreach to those in need, and she never gave up. Once a goal has been set, one requires to put everything one has into achieving it. "Sacrifices will have to be made, but faith and vision must never be lost" was her axiom in life.

Mother Teresa is a wonderful teacher, and her life has a lot to offer us. Mother Teresa is a witness to the values that education ought to bring us. Her life is an inspiration to teachers and students alike.

Ian Pinto SDB is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Philosophy at Divyadaan, Nashik.

06 The Teacher as Game-changer - Noel D'Silva

posted Aug 31, 2017, 10:53 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 31, 2017, 10:53 AM ]

Is a teacher expected to be a game-changer, a person who brings about a significant shift, not only in teaching, but also in the way students view the world in which they live?

Many will say 'No'. Teachers are employed to teach a particular subject or subjects, full stop. Theirs is not the job to influence or change persons, or society, for that matter.

The answer to the question posed will be determined by our understanding of 'education'.

"The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned, but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents and children are students together." - Eric Hoffer

"The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think— rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men." - Bill Beattie

If we look at the above two paragraphs, it will be noticed that the emphasis is not on being learned or acquiring knowledge but on learning, that is, the ability to think for ourselves.

Unfortunately, the school system is so structured that the teacher is almost forced to dish out knowledge. Overcrowded classes, a plethora of subjects and the presence of 'Big Brother' (the Education Department) breathing down the necks of managements and teachers make the lecture method the sine qua non of modern pedagogy. It is here that the call to teachers to become game-changers comes in.

How? By being up-to-the-neck in modern pedagogical practices that make use of current technologies like audio-visual devices, the computer and hands-on experiences, rather than the forced passivity of children who are compelled to listen to the know-all person, also known as 'teacher'.

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07 The Inside-out Teacher - Dr (Ms) Adelaide Vaz

posted Aug 31, 2017, 10:48 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 31, 2017, 10:49 AM ]

School has been in session for a few weeks, and things might be finally settling down for most teachers. Days seem to pass by so quickly, that it seems amazing anything has been accomplished. It seems such a whirlwind from inside the classroom to outside and back and forth.

As an education facilitator for some schools, I stepped into a class IV room one day, and was greeted by the kids and teacher, "Good morning, ma'am." Promptly, one of the girls said, "I love my teacher"; another echoed, "I also love her." A third shrilled out: "I do not love my teacher." The teacher smiled sheepishly, and said to me: "Oh, she's always saying things like that. I just ignore it."

My sixth sense caught up with me and said, "Hey, we need to look at this. We teachers need to go inward, to reflect on what is going on in our classrooms."

It is time that we teachers realise that reflection is vital to our growth and to the growth of our students. We need to go inside ourselves, to the core of our being, in order to reach out to our students.

One definition of 'reflect' is to look back at how something "went". As a teacher, I say I planned this, and it went like this, and now I think this. We need to awaken our sixth sense, and this we can do by looking inward - listening to the heart in silence and accepting what is being offered.

This art of reflection can ignite our spiritual intelligence. Reflection helps us remove the dust and opens our inner eye to find the truth. It helps us to reinforce our purpose for being a teacher. It helps us to connect with our soul, and see what is inside, the intangible and unseen.

What is the point of expending our energy in the classroom, if we do not really enjoy what we are doing or do not feel fulfilled?

Often, when things go wrong at school, we spend the night tossing on our beds. Is there a difference in spending a night with a toothache and spending a night with a lover? Harbouring unpleasant memories of our day in school is like spending our night with a toothache, where we experience pain and frustration, instead of the joy and excitement we have when we are with the loved one.

Today's students arrive on campus, fluent in Web and social networking technologies. The fact is Social media just IS! It's LIFE for the students. Among other tactics, students and parents are even using Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp to make their demands and protests.

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09 Are you a Good Teacher? - Dr. Jeanette Pinto

posted Aug 31, 2017, 10:47 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 31, 2017, 10:47 AM ]

Who is a Good Teacher? In a classroom full of students with different learning abilities, coming from diverse cultural backgrounds, speaking different mother tongues, belonging to different faiths, the teacher today faces a formidable challenge. How to teach each child to his or her maximum potential? Is this a question at the back of her mind? Some children in the class may find the lesson too mundane or boring, if technical terms are used. Some other children may find it difficult to cope with difficult concepts. The media is playing a different role in educating the children. So how does a teacher teach at an optimum level, such that both sets of extreme learning abilities are nurtured?

Unlike popular self-belief, not everyone can be a teacher. Sure you can pursue teaching programmes to gain necessary certification to be a teacher. But a good teacher has to have certain qualities to be an icon of inspiration. Recall the good qualities of your favourite teachers. They motivated you to work harder, and take bigger initiatives. They were passionate about their subject and enjoyed teaching. Often, our memories of childhood revolve around a great teacher who inspired and changed our life. Their words or actions linger in our memory, decades after we leave school. Subconsciously, we emulate them as we pass on our knowledge to the next generation. Thus, a great teacher's influence can last for many generations.

Every teacher should read the story of Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan. How did she teach little Helen, a totally blind and deaf little girl? What an overwhelming challenge she faced. Most teachers today would perhaps give up. One day, a bright idea struck Anne Sullivan. She took Helen to a water pump, and began steadily pumping cool water into one of the girl's hands, while repeatedly she kept tapping out an alphabet code of five letters in the other – first slowly, then rapidly. The scene was repeated again and again, and maybe innumerable times, as young Helen painstakingly struggled to break her world of silence. Suddenly, the signals crossed Helen's consciousness with a meaning. She knew that "w-a-t-e-r" meant the cool something flowing over her hand. Darkness began to melt from her mind like so much ice left out on that sunny March day. By nightfall, Helen had learned 30 words. What a miracle! Anne Sullivan truly was an amazing and exceptional teacher.

A good teacher plays the role of an educator, guide, guru, friend, and while gently nudging "slow learners" to climb the steep learning curve, she engages with the "bright" minds to delve deeper into concepts, and thereby meet their need to be ahead of others. A good teacher should have a sense of humour, be a good entertainer to hold the audience's attention in order to teach the lesson. It is not enough to simply know the subject, but to initiate learning, and make the classroom experience enriching. She should be flexible, so that if students are not interested in learning a new lesson, she is not disturbed. In fact, she may have the opportunity to talk about problems that have arisen in the classroom, and eventually get back to the lesson.

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10 Service with Love - Sr Louella Rodrigues, CCR

posted Aug 31, 2017, 10:46 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 31, 2017, 10:46 AM ]

The legendary Mother Teresa's work for the poor and the needy has become a yardstick by which the entire world measures compassion, generosity and selflessness. Her words and actions have inspired millions of people from every race and religion of many countries to help the poor and needy. This is indeed a gift to all mankind for generations to come. We are, without a doubt, inspired by stalwarts like our own foundress, Mother Veronica, and Mother Teresa. Opportunity knocks at our doors to reach out to the needy. Veronica Nivas was started to cater to the adivasis and other poor and needy. Here, they are given good education helping them to stand on their feet. Whoever the poorest of the poor are, they are Christ for us. In order to serve these children, we need a spirit of sacrifice, we need a life of prayer. Without an intimate attitude of penance, we are incapable of carrying out our work. We need to serve, and serving souls seek no position, no power; rather, a serving soul seeks to be a servant. The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of those who are meek and lowly; those who serve and reach out to the poor.

It is important to lay our hands on those who are weary and burdened. We need to bless and give them the sacrament of spiritual life. "Today, it is very fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk to them," said Mother Teresa. At Veronica Nivas, we see to not only the educational needs of the downtrodden, but we also recognise their primary needs, and fulfil these through a supply of nutritious food, accompanied by plenty of love. They are very happy to stay with us, as all their needs are met. There is time for prayer, study and play to ensure a well balanced and integrated personality.

"I ask you nothing; do not get tired of giving. Give until it hurts, until you feel the pain." These are thoughts of Mother Teresa which we try to imitate. We are inspired and propelled by her words.

Give! Give! Give the wealth of your heart, your loving ways of your dedicated life.

Your treasure is not your bank account or cash certificate, not your silver or gold, but your heart. Give to the poor, and you will be blessed.

Sometimes, charity may cost us. People may doubt us, but fear no one, if you are right before God.

As we tread our daily path reaching out to the poor, we sometimes become victims of suspicion and mistrust. This humorous story illustrates the same. A little boy had heard that God gives us whatever we ask for. Keeping this in mind, when the boy's family was in great distress, he wrote a letter simply addressed "To God". He asked God to send him Rs 100 per month to meet the expenses of his studies, since his father was out of work, and his mother was very ill.

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11 Reflections for TEACHERS' DAY - Patricia Prawin

posted Aug 31, 2017, 10:42 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 31, 2017, 10:42 AM ]

As teachers who prepare lesson plans, we are familiar with the term 'reflection'. It's the last item in the lesson plan, and hopefully leads to further learning in the next lesson.

In this fast-paced world, reflecting on any task is a luxury, as we rush to the next task to save time. However, it's worth reflecting on our classrooms, where we teach academic subjects and skills which enable our children to move from one grade to another.

A teacher may feel that her influence is limited to the understanding of Maths, Language or Science, without realising that every move she makes is being scrutinised. Ask any student about a teacher, and one realises that every aspect from the tone and expression of voice to the dress and haircut is carefully noted. Along with the core concepts of a subject, students look up to teachers for cues and models of their own development. The teacher they see for so many hours in a day is an obvious role model to emulate. A teacher needs to be constantly aware and intentionally role model good behaviour to students. We have this responsibility towards moulding their young minds. Some ways to do this could be:

1. Professionalism: A teacher should exhibit all characteristics of a professional. Dressing neatly, being on time and coming well prepared for a class will teach students how to conduct themselves in a career of their own some day.

2. Conflict Resolution: Resolving conflicts in the class with fairness and maturity gives children tools to use in their own conflict situations. Reading up on a few conflict management strategies and using them in the class will ensure not only good behaviour in the class, but teach a lifelong skill to children. These skills are almost always learnt from significant adults in the life of a child.

3. Growth Mindset: The language used by the teacher goes a long way in building or breaking down a child. Think about it – Which teachers do you remember from your childhood and why? Chances are you would remember them more for being supportive and good at their subject. Being positive and encouraging children to believe they can achieve their potential not only makes for motivated children but spills over into academic achievement. Here are a few ways to inculcate the growth mindset in the classroom:

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12 Re-Inventing the TEACHING PROFESSION - Vincent D’Silva

posted Aug 31, 2017, 10:40 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 31, 2017, 10:41 AM ]

Teaching is recognised as one of the most challenging and respected career choices, absolutely vital to the social, cultural, and economic health of any nation. It is a fulfilling profession, since teachers have the potential to shape minds and influence others' perspectives, approach and future behaviour. Teaching also helps us find opportunities to learn from many young and fertile minds that have a new way of looking at things. To be able to prepare the next generation face the future with confidence, purpose and responsibility, the crucial role of teachers cannot be overemphasised.

As teachers, we are being challenged like never before, to not only have a firm grasp of the subject we teach, but also to seamlessly integrate the newest learning technologies into our classroom practice. We face the challenges of a heterogeneous classroom, of eager young minds having already researched the topic on Google, and dexterous fingers seemingly programmed from birth to navigate the keyboard or touch screen sitting in every student's restless hands. Even though the fundamentals on how to teach are shifting and changing with the developments of technology and media, one thing never changes - the impact a teacher can have on a child's life.

The education industry is very dynamic. As teachers, we need to be constantly updated with the best practices in use across the world. This means evaluating and reflecting on our teaching skills by adopting rigorous study, practice and self-improvement. New digital technologies allow educators to engage in personal development, strengthen pedagogies, and create learning communities outside of school buildings. Collaboration in the digital age enables teachers to reach out and connect with the like-minded. We need to seek out our own professional renewal, unlike teachers who claim to have twenty years experience, when they've only got one year's experience repeated twenty times.

As Louise Stoll said a few years ago, "Many of our schools are good schools, if only this were 1965." Unfortunately, for many of our schools, very little has changed over the past few decades. Yes, there might be better lighting, air conditioning or even a computer and smart board in the room, but the process of formal education has changed very little. Education still mainly involves teachers "data dumping" information to students to cover the curriculum in preparation for a standardised test. On the other hand, students want the lecture to be a highlight reel and a teaser, rather than seeing the teacher as an expert at the pulpit.

Also, as teachers, we are a by-product of the education system that we grew up in, and hence it is important to re-invent our teaching career by unlearning, as well as learning a lot of new things. Importantly, we can only earn respect when we start appreciating the impact we make, which some of us teachers fail to do, because teaching was never our preferred career choice. We need to upgrade our teaching skills and classroom strategies to keep in tune with the changing times, and inspire ourselves to learn new skills, upgrade our knowledge or even pursue higher studies.

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