I was fortunate to be born in a lower middle class family. My father was a Kathakali Artist. As Kathakali is performed mainly in temples during the festive seasons, it could not be relied on as his only source of livelihood. He thus used to take up other jobs. My mother was a home maker who struggled to feed her five children. I studied in a Malayalam medium school in my village. My most hated subject was Mathematics, not because the subject was tough or boring, but because it was taught by a teacher who was very rude.
But, my attitude towards the subject changed when I entered high school and had Mr. Swamy as my Mathematics teacher. He was very affectionate, and loved his subject and students. By class 10, I scored the most in Mathematics. This was what made me realize that teachers can do wonders in creating interest in a subject. The personality of the teacher, and the methods they adopt, play a great role.
When I was in class 8, I decided to become a teacher. I used to tutor students of lower classes. After passing out from the 10th standard, I completed the Hindi Teachers Training ‘Prachar Diploma’ at Trivandrum which made me eligible to become a high school Hindi teacher in Kerala.
I stayed in a hostel while pursuing the course, away from home for the first time. Unfortunately, my father passed away during that time. But, by the grace of God, I completed the training and was qualified to become a high school teacher.
In the year 1962, when China attacked India, a massive recruitment to the Indian army started. Young boys who were physically fit were recruited irrespective of their qualification. They also required teachers to teach the Jawans English, Mathematics and Hindi. I applied for the post of a teacher and got selected.
My journey as a teacher started in the year 1963 with a salary of Rs 116. I served the Indian Army for three years as a Civilian School Master, after which I joined a new central school in Malleswaram, Bangalore as a Primary Teacher.
I started to attend evening college for PUC and BA, and then joined the Regional College of Education at Mysore for B.Ed. I completed my MA from Bangalore University, and MEd from Tilak Collage of Education, Pune.
Talking about the shift to digitalization during the pandemic in the education sector, I feel that one can see the revolution of the education industry as a positive impact of the pandemic period. It would have taken many years to see this revolution if the situation was normal.
Technology helped educators to reach their students and impart knowledge even during a crisis. There is no replacement for a teacher, but technology has become an effective learning aid for the student community, while enabling them to get the best resources at the click of a button. Teachers and students quickly adapted to the situation. There are now a plethora of programs/aids to assist teachers and students.
Digitalization also brings people from different parts of the world with the same passion together, and helps them to learn together.
But, consistently engaging students is a challenging task even for the most experienced teacher. What students do behind the screen is a complete mystery to the teacher and he/she is unable to identify if a student is really engaged in the learning process. The most challenging task in digital education is the assessment. Due to the tendency of the students to copy, assessments lose their meaning.
The educational institutions exist because of the learners, and the mission is to accomplish learning without hindrance. But, who can reach out to the target audience – our students? It’s the teachers. Hurdles were many throughout the race, yet joyfully experienced with a pleasant face.
Technology came as a life saviour and the spirit of adapting to the new style of teaching was high amongst educators. Timely training sessions conducted in small batches made the teachers comfortable learners. A beautiful inherent feature of a teacher is being ‘Ready to Learn’. The hurdle was overcome as every teacher mastered the new style nothing less to a technically sound individual.
They beautifully prepared informative videos by using the resources available at home and at school to give the students a real time teaching – learning experience. However, the monitoring of students during the assessments was definitely a concern. Our learning from this entire experience is that a teacher cannot be replaced by anyone- even the best of best devices and technology. The paradigm shift from offline to online has effectively taught every teacher how the integration of the two can do wonders.
Our school considers the safety of our students as the topmost priority, which is why we have all the safety measures in place, for welcoming our students back to school. Apart from ensuring that the basic precautions are in place, we split the students into batches and conduct classes in shifts or on alternate days to ensure that all students need not come at the same time. We believe that the school must ensure to provide a healthy learning atmosphere and support for children at school including health, nutrition and psychosocial support.
Providing counseling sessions is imperative, and parents and teachers should be briefed about the expected behavioural changes from the children when the school reopens, so they will have their coping strategies in place. They should be encouraged to have open conversations with their child/students regarding the struggles, and not feel overwhelmed while doing so.
The mental health of students has been drastically impacted during the pandemic, and most of them may find it very challenging to bounce back to the regular routine. Here the parents and teachers should work in tandem to bring back the confidence and make their child/students comfortable.
My mother was my greatest support through the early years of my journey. After marriage, my wife Mrs Mayavathy supported me to climb the ladder. During my education, Mr Raghavan Pillai and Mr Swamy cannot be forgotten. Mrs Kamalam Sethuraman, the first Principal of KendriyaVidyalay was a great pillar of support. Mr.M K Rao- the Assistant Commissioner of KVS Guwahati Region considered me as a family member and the confidence he had in me made me work better as an academician and an administrator. I am also grateful to all my colleagues who have been very supportive. I also had the blessings of Padmabhushan Sri Sri Sri Dr Balagangadharanatha Mahaswamiji, Sri Sri Dr Nirmalandanatha Mahaswamiji and Sri Sri Dr Prakshnatha Swamiji. My pranam to them.
I’ve been very fortunate to receive many awards and recognitions including the National Award from Dr A P J Abdulkalam in 2003, NCERT award for innovation in Education, Best Principal Award by SOF New Delhi, Best Principal in integrating Technology in the classroom by Intel, Best International Principal Award 2016, and many more.
The message I want to give to the upcoming professionals in the field of education is that, remember that teaching is not merely a profession; it is a service. Love your service, love your subject and love your students. Make a positive change in the life of a student. Only two people will be happy and proud to see the progress of a child –Parents and Teachers. Be a change maker.
Do check out experiences shared by our top 50 leaders in education.
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