Remember the character of John Keating from the movie ‘Dead Poets Society’? The seminal role essayed by an equally iconic Robin Williams gave us a clear picture of the positive impact a good teacher could have on young minds. However, in the movie, Keating’s talent is hardly appreciated by the authorities. He is ultimately forced to resign from his position as the inspirational English teacher, all because his teaching methodology was a tad bit unconventional. Thankfully, the farewell tribute paid by students makes up for all the turmoil. Time & again we have seen movies on the subject come up – our very own Hindi movie industry has produced memorable roles like that of Amitabh in Black, Aamir in ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and Rani Mukherjee in the recent Bollywood flick – ‘Hichki’ – where the unconventional teaching methods of Rani’s character have challenged the established norms.

Cinema is a mirror to our society and these narratives compel us to think whether teachers and educators are empowered enough in today’s context? Technology and human sciences have helped us evolve, and with the passage of time, even the teaching methodology must come out of its stereotypical nature. Education must be more inclusive and aim to engage as many learners as possible. Easier said than done though. After all, the onus of carrying out this herculean task still falls on the teachers. The same lot, which is still shackled by conventions and parameters.  The administrators, the school & college authorities – thus must realize that it is essential to empower the teachers if we want to revolutionize education and inspire students!

Empowerment is a ladder- one step leads to another

Teaching is that single profession that nurtures the foundation of all other professions! Teaching is not a profession, but a vocation ! Albert Einstein once said, that only a good educator who knows his art, can instill in young minds the fun associated with knowledge & learning. But what does empowerment literally translate to?

  • Empowering teachers refers to giving them the right to take decisions to determine an educational institution’s academic policies & motto.
  • A person can’t be taught or trained to become a good teacher. Schools & colleges should work towards creating an atmosphere of creative freedom for the teachers. This would help them transform into a leader to deliver their best. Research has shown that when teachers gain confidence, sharing knowledge in class becomes easy & comfortable.
  • A teacher is not just an instructor or a trainer. Teaching needs to penetrate a student’s mind and be more relevant beyond marks & grades. Teachers play an instrumental role in developing a student’s personality. Thus, limiting the teacher’s activities to common educational norms & methodology is only going to breed mediocrity.
  • Empowering teachers, also makes them responsible for their own acts. Empirical evidence has shown that empowered teachers can resist themselves from getting involved into matters that may be detrimental for their profession or abilities.

What can educational institutions do to empower teachers? 

Bill Gates once said, that in terms of motivating children & inspiring them to bring collective change, the teacher is the most important tool. These are some things that schools can do to empower teachers –

  • Institutional authorities need to understand that teaching skills are very personal & vary from teacher to teacher. Therefore, institutions should be open to accepting & embracing individual teaching methodology. Teachers should not be forced to follow typical or age-old teaching methodology.
  • Along with maintaining an atmosphere where students grow, schools should invest in activities that help upskill teachers augments their knowledge.
  • The academic institution should foster an atmosphere that enables both students & teachers to express themselves clearly & freely.
  • Like good students are rewarded on a yearly basis by the institution, good teachers should also be recognized and their achievement’s celebrated.
  • School authorities should arrange skill workshops for teachers to hone their personalities & leadership qualities.
  • School authorities should organize seminars and arrange panel discussion for teachers where new methods of teaching and various aspects of child psychology are discussed.
  • Authorities should encourage inter-departmental dialogue from time to time. This goes a long way in ensuring holistic growth.
  • Recreation helps nurture creativity in people of all age groups. So, school authorities should be aware of the passions or hobbies or talents of the teaching staff & provide opportunities for display & recognition of the same.
  • Lastly, teachers should not be over-burdened with duties by a school/college. Creative expression is limited if the workload is high.

In the end, let’s not forget that empowerment does not come alone. School or college authorities cannot turn away from their responsibilities just by empowering the teachers. The institutions must keep a good watch over classroom activities even after empowering the teachers. Misuse of power is common, and this is where the institutional authorities should step in. School authorities must ensure that no teacher, however, empowered, should indulge in anti-humanistic activities like corporal punishment, dishonesty, partiality among students etc.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam had once expressed his desire of being remembered as a teacher first & then a scientist or the President of India. This dynamic personality today is remembered exactly as that.

School years offer a mixed bag of experiences – we all have been applauded and reprimanded by our teachers and because of them, we are who we are today. They’ve instilled, knowledge, courage and ethics in us. While schools play a vital role in developing a student, it is the teacher, who works on us individually.  Thus, students deserve teachers who are empowered and help them believe in themselves.