From Skill to Will

We started with Pradeep’s journey from content teaching to skill development to will development. Here is a link for that. The real challenge for a teacher is to nurture a student’s will to learn. Teachers can be taught to do this; all it takes is a library of tricks. Here are a couple of examples from this future library.

  • Students Decide. You are supposed to cover 2 topics in a week. You start by getting students to decide which topic should we do first. Now that the decision has been taken by students, their interest levels increases.
  • Handwriting. Good handwriting is the foundation of good learning. Even if your students make mistakes, you need to make them cross the mistakes out in such a way that they look like pieces of art.

Then Nagesh Mone took stage. Here are 7 ideas that are worth taking away from his talk.

  • Everyone is first. Suppose you are a student who has come 5th in a class of 15. Then actually you are first, amongst 10. Every guy is first. The only comparison that Nagesh allows is of a student with his history. Nagesh has, over his 33 year career, passed thousands of students, who have been academic strugglers. A lot of them have gone on to do well in life. Academic performance cannot be the sole measure of success. 
  • Listening. Students only listen to teachers who listen to students. Nagesh’s cabin has a notice: ‘No permission required by students to enter this room.’ Find a place in the heart of a student, then your job is done.
  • Praise. One interesting practice related to public praise is to put down the name of the student who has answered a question correctly on the right hand side of the blackboard. This name is not rubbed off through the session. What is also interesting is the left hand side of the blackboard, where he puts up names of students who have not given the right answers. However through the session, he will ensure that the question quality to such students is got down, so that he can move these students  from the left hand side to the right hand side of the blackboard.
  • Responsibility. Students are responsible. It’s just that teachers don’t believe in this idea. When he was principal of the New English School, Tilak Road, he found that all the windows in the school had been paned with iron sheets. The original architects of this hundred-year-old school had designed the building to get good sunlight without getting heat, all through the year. Yet the covered windows were not allowing students to experience this. Against the cautionary advice of his entire teaching team, he went ahead and changed all the iron sheets to glass. He advised his teachers to not make any mention to the students about stuff like ‘Don’t break the glass.’ He then took feedback from students about the change that had just happened. A lot of them were happy with it. He told them that if you break the glass accidentally, just tell me. In the next five years, not a single glass pane got broken. 
  • Application. When he teaches trigonometry, the question he asks to students is have you gone from Wai to Pune? And when you took the bus did you see a tunnel that comes on the way? What happens before you come to that tunnel? A lot of turns. How did the engineers design the approach road before they dug the tunnel? And that is where trigonometry comes in. Applications create interest. 
  • Props. An interesting question he asked the audience: How many times have you used litmus paper in your life? And how much do you think would it have cost the school to give you a few litmus paper sheets. Most of us have only used a couple of sheets in our life. Why are schools so penny foolish? One day, Nagesh purchased two thousand small mirrors for his school and give two to each kid. What fun students had that day. 
  • Names. Whenever Nagesh goes for a talk to any place, he asks the organisers and gets two names, one on the left back corner and right back corner of the room. And he ensures that he uses those names liberally in his talk. Helps build a connect with the audience. In fact, he even uses random names in the class. For example, when he says. ‘Pradeep don’t make noise’, most students assume that he knows who the noisemaker is, and stop making noise.

After Nagesh’s talk, we broke the class up into groups of four and asked them to come up with their own experiences. Here are 7 interesting experiences:

  • Let students know you are human, by asking them for solutions for your problems.
  • Ask students this question: ‘What comes to your mind when I ask this question?’
  • Students are using WhatsApp in your class in any case. Ask them to use their Mobiles instead for finding answers to a problem that you have given.
  • Look at problems from the RHS, instead of the LHS
  • In an extra class, create a challenge question, students who answer that are free to leave the class. 
  • Roam around in class – people then actually start writing in their books. Ask students to not take notes when discussions are happening. Give them white time at the end of important points, to make notes in their own language. Works much better than dictation.
  • When you watch a movie or TV ads, see how you can get that movie or ad into your classroom, by linking it to your subject. Ask students to do a study on TV ads – and make a presentation in class about the same.

We concluded with 5 things that we should be teaching students –

  • How to learn
  • How to observe 
  • How to build self esteem
  • How to tell stories
  • How to take good notes