Teachers are also mentors, counsellors, fellow learners and friends

Teachers are also mentors, counsellors, fellow learners and friends

We teachers have lost our image of role models because we aren’t coming out of the traditional teaching-learning process

Teachers are the driving force behind any nation’s education system and it is they who interact with students the most. As a result, a teacher frequently has to perform multiple roles to be the best mentor. If teachers are to perform well in the classroom, they must embrace the role of a leader. In my experience, a teacher must frequently perform various jobs to be the best educator possible, including as a resource person, emotional support person, a mentor, a learner, and a helping hand.
Being an engineering student, I was never inclined towards the teaching profession; however, I was inclined towards social work and always wanted to work for the wellbeing of society. In 2018, the last semester of my degree, I had a week off. I had nothing better to do, so I turned on the television to watch a movie. There was much hype about a new movie, “Hichki,” and being lucky enough, it just started the moment I switched on the TV. The movie, starring Rani Mukherjee as Naina Mathur, is based on American motivational speaker Brad Cohen’s autobiography “Front of the Class.”
In this film, Naina Mathur is an inspiring teacher assigned to teach students of class 9F. Other teachers had already rejected 9F because it comprises students from slums, in seats reserved by the government to fill the quota for the underprivileged in Saint Notker’s School, with the rest of the classes having academically excellent students. Students of 9F were traumatised because of the behavior of teachers and other students towards them. The behavior of teachers and other schoolmates pushed them to aggressive behavior, and they started to imitate and mock the teachers. I ended up in tears after watching how Naina managed to earn perfect badges for students from the slum after competing with the prefects of the school. Her role and character influenced me a lot.
This movie was a lesson for life, but I never knew I would land up in the academic profession. Soon when my degree ended, I was asked to teach in the same college I was a student of, and I readily agreed to that and started my career as an Assistant Professor at SSM college of Engineering, Pattan. It was challenging in the beginning to tackle the new step of my life as a teacher. But it took me significantly less time to adjust to being in my alma mater.
I was every day exploring new aspects of the students. Naina’s character in the back of my mind, I used to teach interactively and asked students to realise their strengths. In the college, I also got a chance to work with Professor SSA Rufai. His kind gestures towards students and society motivated me a lot. Naina and my professor are the reason behind how I still manage extreme situations in my college as a teacher or colleague.
After the pandemic, I witnessed a lot of anxiety, depression, and stress among the students. I tried to ask them what they felt, where we as teachers were lagging, and why they were not able to cope. I realized that most students had suffered a lot because of the pandemic. Many teachers used to taunt students about how they were enjoying online classes and exams. But they had no idea of their situation; some had lost their parents, some their siblings, some had witnessed their loved ones on death beds, and some were themselves on ventilators. Many students had to pay their dues when they didn’t have bread to survive. All this shattered me a lot because it hadn’t been much time since I was a student myself. Who could understand the situation of students better than me? I used to relate every situation to myself. The moment I realized a change in any student’s behavior, I used to ask them the reason behind their aggressive behavior, dejection or anxiousness. Unfortunately, I faced a lot of criticism from my colleagues, being the youngest faculty in the department. But I had only one thing to ask them: what are we teachers for? Is it to teach students academic lessons only?
In today’s technical world, education sector is not limited to classrooms; there is nothing that students cannot get online to study. My perception of being a teacher is more of a mentor. I have seen students bunking the classes, roaming around the campus, and not attending classes. They feel demotivated because they cannot cope with what the tutor is teaching. In today’s era, we teachers have lost our image of role models because we aren’t coming out of the traditional teaching-learning process. We have forgotten that a good student can get good grades even without our teaching; we have to be more concerned about how we can reach out to students who cannot overcome their inferiority and anxiety to cope with their studies. Some students do not need assistance with academics but with their issues, someone to guide them on how to face society. We need to help them recognize their strengths and tell them it is okay not to be good in every aspect. I have seen students constantly struggling to study but not able to manage. It’s ironic how some teachers ask them to join counseling sessions so that they can cope with academic perfects in this so-called smart world, without even realizing how hard disclosing their failures in front of them will be for them.
Teachers believe that being friendly with students will push students to disregard their authority and make them disobedient. Their fears are well-founded, and every teacher must set boundaries and ensure their students respect them. But being affable with your students will almost always benefit them, making them less afraid to express their ideas and worries and much more willing to confide in you. But, as always, moderation is essential, and a teacher must establish the line that allows students to open up to them while also preventing them from walking all over you. Being friendly with students can help to improve their learning experience and academic performance.

The writer is an Assistant Professor at the Civil Engineering Department of SSM College of Engineering. [email protected]


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