Time to bridge the gap Negotiation, partnership is the key to success!
I have been in the field of education for the last four decades and have been with students in different capacities. These forty years of educational repertoire gave me a chance to witness the drastic change in the attitude of students in the last decade of my career and the subsequent insolent, judgmental stigmas aimed at students by teachers who were unable to handle this change! The real question before us is who is to be blamed for this inevitable change and its aftermath? Teachers who are used to a pindrop silence class and the Jug n Mug Theory or the students who are surrounded by immense knowledge around them. Is answering a question by a student even before a teacher completed her question rude behaviour, arrogance, non-compliance as often considered by majority of teachers or should it be rewarded and considered smart. Who Decides This?
Only recently I have been hearing incessant complaints of teachers and parents about students being rude, lame, brazen, insolent, impolite, indecent, outspoken, disrespectful, non-compliant etc. But have we ever paused to contemplate the reasons for this change in the attitude of students? In my opinion not really, because it is always easy to pass the buck on to someone else rather than trying to find out the underlying reasons around the issue! Here I would like to quote from Sir Ken Robinson’s book “Out of Our Minds”, (2011). He says, “The more complex the world becomes, the more creative we need to be to meet its challenges’. People now need to be creative to be successful, but while the idea of success has changed, the education system has not always adjusted its methods or goals to meet the changing needs of students and I add the changing needs of TIME.
We are very conveniently forgetting an important fact that we are dealing with Generation Z – born between 1995 and 2009 as pointed out by Sir Ken Robinson. Most students who do not remember life without the internet, have had technology like smartphones, iPads, smartboards and other devices available throughout their lives. Next, we are faced with Generation Alpha – born after 2010 who are even younger than smartphones, the iPad, 3D television, Instagram, Chat GPT etc. The irony here is that these students are still taught by teachers who are immigrants of technology teaching natives of technology. The gap between the teacher and learner needs to be addressed in time or the results would be devastating.
The most quoted reasons for students’ failure are unrealistic expectations of teachers/students, problems with comprehending, uninteresting lessons, personality clashes and peer pressure etc. But I feel the most important aspect is that students of generation Z and Alpha are taught by the old factory model teaching tools thus the result is under-productivity. The fact of the matter is that these students are surrounded by hordes of information which is just a click away. Today’s students neither have time for drag lessons that are mostly boring and repetitive nor do teachers ignite the love of learning in students to make them independent and lifelong learners.
I believe teachers need to get out of the bubble of self-deception; of being the soul owners of knowledge. Teachers often are impressed with their own compelling charisma and dynamism, with their astounding wit and extraordinary command of subjects. If all the above is true, then the question arises why is dropout increasing? Why are education standards declining? Why are classroom and behaviour management issues rising? And finally, why are students committing suicides? These are only a few questions raised that need to be answered but hundreds of similar ones are lurking to be asked.
In my view the students today must be taught by negotiating the outcomes with them on the basis of individual needs. Today there is greater diversity than in the times past, and a “one-size-fits-all” classroom is no longer the solution. I am not going to go into the prerequisites of 21st century skills, especially with the advent of Chat GPT where gathering information is further simplified. Rather I would like to tilt my lens towards how student-teacher relationship will make the best of the learning tools available to become intrinsically motivated learners.
For me the most important skills include the “New 3Rs” (Relationships, Routines and Resilience) of core academic content mastery (Cantor, 2021) and the 4Cs of Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity (Stauffer, 2021). By integrating cognitive learning and skills into the curriculum, students can gain a deeper understanding of the subject as well as ways to solve complex problems in the real world but that can only happen if the teacher is willing to work in partnership with students by negotiating small steps towards attaining larger goals. Teachers and students need to embark upon Educational Adventure together to reap the benefits of it and for teachers to justify their role of being a teacher which is termed as a prophetic profession. We teachers can make a difference!
—The writer is Principal at Millennium Roots Schools/College, Khyber Campus Peshawar.
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