S. Indira Narayan is an educationist with more than 35 years of rich experience in the teaching field. She has held multiple portfolios. She has been associates with St. Ann’s High School, ICSE, ISC, Secunderabad, for over three decades, teaching English language and English literature for classes 10, 11 and 12. The Last portfolio she held was as Academic Coordinator, St Ann's High School, at Kompally Hyderabad, under the same Management. Indira Narayan has conducted numerous workshops for school teachers and continues to do so. She is also interested in writing and writes regularly on her blog - http://vinplaksha.wordpress.com/
Interactive Sessions with school teachers are rarely interactive. Contradiction? I say this by observation, having conducted workshops for teachers. One knows that teachers at schools come from different backgrounds; family, schooling education, lifestyles, etc. as is also the case with students of a class. Again, the intellectual capacity also differs from student to student and teacher to teacher.
On this note, in a class, there are some students who can understand what the teacher is teaching; some try hard to do so and the rest cannot absorb most of the teaching but will allow the teacher to continue, thereby putting their learning on a shaky foundation. They hesitate to stand up and clear their doubts. There are many reasons for this.
The above explanation is given to draw a parallel between similar situations, i.e. hesitance in teachers to answer questions or raise doubts or present their views during a workshop or to interact. My experience from the workshops I have conducted is that interaction is very low. I make it a point to pause from time to time, ask if there are any doubts, open the session for a healthy discussion, seek opinions, etc. But the response is not satisfactory. Like in a classroom situation, I find that the same few teachers will answer questions, interact spontaneously, be participative. Most others seem reluctant to respond, or seek clarifications, but often appear like mute spectators. This makes me wonder whether they are listening to what is being said by the resource person and whether they are able to understand and absorb the key points of the session. Perhaps my presentation is confusing, is also a thought that comes to me. I hasten to add here, that, my aim is not to put down my teaching fraternity, my fellow teachers. An observant teacher can easily detect a student who is not attentive, who is not ‘with the class’. A resource person can also do the same.
In a class, a teacher can and, I think, should direct a sudden question to the pupil who seems distracted, asking – ‘tell me about the last point I explained’. The response will allow you to assess attentiveness or distraction. In the case of the latter response, it will become an embarrassment for the student to be caught napping in the presence of his/her classmates. It should put the student on the alert and be more attentive.
Now, I ask, can a resource person try this with teachers? I am sure the answer is NO!
To come back to the point I made in the beginning - Why do teachers hesitate to interact in a session conducted for them on some important learning point? Some of the reasons I can think of are:
Shy to ask or shy to be seen asking.
Loss of words; unable to articulate a thought or form a question properly.
Not paying full attention to the session in progress. Reasons could be they are quite conversant with the subject or are not ‘with’ the group.
Fearing that their queries/responses may make them appear lacking in understanding.
Laid back attitude; others are responding so I NEED NOT.
Will go along with their friends who are also not interacting.
There may be some other reasons too, apart from those mentioned above.
A workshop is not just any other activity to be conducted because it may be mandatory for a school to do so. It is an opportunity to upgrade the skills in teaching, update subject knowledge, improve class management techniques, etc. In this fast-paced world of ours, there is something new every minute, in almost every field, and definitely in the world of education, which makes it imperative that we keep ourselves updated.
Friends, here are some reasons for being participative in a workshop:
It can introduce new concepts that may aid teaching.
A hands-on experience of the resource person may motivate one to try new methods.
It allows participants to learn of some structural methods of teaching, to incorporate into their work.
Helps identify educational objectives currently in practice; especially useful for those dependent on ‘textbook teaching.’
Makes a teacher aware that there is much more that can be taught; out of the box as it were.
Active participation by some, can be beneficial to some others present, who may not have thought of a point in discussion. If one teacher interacts, answers or has queries, it may enthuse others to speak out. Sharing information is a way of gaining knowledge. The journey of a teacher seeks constant updating of knowledge.
Here is a quote I want to share: “Dear Teacher, you are the best, because you brought out the best in us.” Friends, to be able to honour this statement bring the best out in yourself. One way to do this, is to attend Workshops with interest and actively so. Speak up and speak out!
Exceptions to the rule; theory applies!