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Dear Teacher from Yours sincerely
This is a letter not from us, but from your students, it requires a response from you to them. We are confident that children would like to hear from you. We are excited that there is always a possibility of converting our classroom into a room-of-class. In the form of some questions and ideas, this letter just has sparks, which you can use to light up your own fires. The idea is to burn out what is not needed and bake, grill and deep fry our children’s actual potential. Happy cooking.
Aditi and Ratnesh
Why do you teach?
No, we are not asking what motivates you, rather questioning your basic premise that we need to be taught. What is likely to happen if you give up this belief and give us the right and might to learn by ourselves?
What if you were just there somewhere in the classroom - available as a resource - if we happen to need some guidance?
What if when we do come to you for guidance, you refuse to offer it? Rather you show us the immense resource we have inside us.
What if when we were to beg you to teach us - you point us to peers who can do an equally amazing job of teaching?
What if when we are totally lost - you also get lost (from the room)? Left high and dry, we will then push ourselves to further create what we will need all our lives - abilities - to solve, to ideate, to understand, to assimilate, to correlate, to beat ourselves.
What if we give up and that is the occasion you do not give up on us? You hit us back: you do not make it easier for us, you make it more exciting for us - you bring in more ingredients, you add new twists to the tale and yes, you twist our tails too.
What if you make us accountable - not just to ourselves - but to the whole class? All ensuring that all have learned whatever was to be learned. And more!
Why do you sweat?
No, we are not talking about your secretion glands, rather questioning your approach - you take your job too seriously. What will happen if you would give up this pedestal and step down and join us? Accept us as colleagues?
We see you harried between what to teach, how to teach, how to reach all, manage homework, give tests, corrects tests, manage the class and complete the portion. We know this juggling is no fun.
What if running the class (and even the school) becomes a cooperative endeavour?
When you see us as customers you are always trying to please us. When you see us as kids you are always trying to control us. But if you see us as co-workers then we ALL transform into a team of raring professionals out there to conquer every learning peak!
What if you delegate almost all your responsibilities? No, let us rephrase, what if we all share all the responsibilities of learning and living together (don’t we all spend a minimum of 10 years in the school)?
What if - this week or this month - a team of us takes on the onus of teaching? Another team will manage the projects. One more will take care of home works and yet another of tests (preparing, administering and checking). There will be a team to take care of the learning environment by doing research, making and displaying posters and distributing trivia on the topic of the week.
You will observe that when you start sharing your responsibilities with us - things will not all work fine. We will make mistakes, we will omit, forget, mismanage and even be completely irresponsible. What if at every mishap you see the opportunity for more effort, more challenges and more growth?
What if you were to also share your earnings? No, no we’re just joking. You deserve your salary - not for serving us, but for making our learning journey worthwhile. For being with us, for accepting us, for forgiving us, for laughing and crying with us.
Why do you assess?
No, we are not doubting your judgment, rather questioning your objective. Do you want us to become a better person? Or do you want us to become better at knowing how to become a better person?
What if you handed us the task of assessing ourselves?
What if you made us praise ourselves?
What if you let us test ourselves?
What if, when we have doubts, you shared with us - observations (and only observations) about us?
What if, when you saw arrogance in us, you shared with us - observations (and only observations) about us?
What if instead of pointing out, you be a mirror in which we can see ourselves?
Why do you not learn? No, we are not doubting your capability or skills, rather suggesting - how about you becoming a student too? Learning something new, like how we are.
Remember, we are learning new stuff everyday - from Newton’s law to our behaviour, from football tackle to Hindi matra to coral reefs - hundreds of new concepts and skills. All this learning business can be very challenging for us.
What if you take up some new learning - say playing the flute or doing salsa or writing Haiku?
We think if you too are a student, you will relate to us more closely, understand our anxieties more deeply, empathize with our struggles better, inspire our efforts more impactfully! Indeed it would be great to share stories of our struggles, we can laugh at our failures or cry over our hardships and yes glow in our successes.
You are dear to us - for many reasons, but by far the most important is that you have decided that we are important. Not only you have decided, but DAILY, you wake up, walk up and look up to us. Thank you.
With apologies to Yeats, we end this letter with a quote:
But we, being learners, have only our dreams;
We have spread our dreams under your feet;
Tread wisely because you tread on our dreams.